HIGHTOWER: All In The Family

Ah, family values!Washington politicians love to wrap themselves in warm images of concern about the family, so let me express my concern about one issue of family togetherness on Capitol Hill that is a bit much. I'm talking about members of congress whose spouses or other close relatives are lobbyists.Take Patricia McKeon who's VP of a Washington lobbying outfit. Her husband is Republican congressman Buck McKeon of California. The Hill, a newspaper covering congress, reports that Patricia lobbies for such firms as AT&T, but she promises she never lobbies her husband. Even if you believe that, Patricia McKeon acknowledges that being a lobbyist and a congressional spouse means you always have easy access to members of congress! Isn't that handy?On the Democratic side, Ruth Harkin now heads the lobbying arm of United Technologies, a major Pentagon contractor. Guess who serves on the Senate appropriations committee, which doles-out billions of dollars in Pentagon contracts? Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, her husband! It's OK, though, because Ruth promises she never lobbies her husband.Michelle Clay is the daughter of St. Louis Democratic congressman William Clay, and guess who she lobbies for? The City of St. Louis. Not to worry, though, she promises she never lobbies her father.On the other hand, Senator Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, readily admits that his lobbyist son Ben visits him all the time on behalf of his corporate clients. We shouldn't worry though, because -- hey -- Senator Stevens promises he treats his son like any other lobbyist.Apparently corporations can buy anything and everything in Washington -- including a lawmaker's familial connections.This is Jim Hightower saying ... Remember -- on Capitol Hill, a family that lobbies together, stays together.Source:"For Hill spouses, lobbying begins at home" by Jock Friedly. The Hill: September 17, 1997.

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