Sweet Irony: One of Congress's Slimiest Reps Loses $700K Investing in Cronies' Companies


Texas Republican Joe Barton, ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is essentially owned by Big Oil. He was the principle principal author of the 2005 Energy Bill -- a massive giveaway to the oil giants -- he launched a ridiculous witch-hunt of an "investigation" into climate scientists who, you know, said global warming wasn't a left-wing conspiracy, and he exploited the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina to push even more energy subsidies and ease environmental standards further for Big Oil. (Barton features prominently in Antonia Juhasz's excellent book, The Tyranny of Oil.)

Those Texas oilmen he represents get around campaign finance restrictions by donating to Barton's "charitable foundation", which pays his daughter's salary. That's pretty much his modus operandi -- Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) reported that Barton paid his wife  $57,759 in salary and bonuses out of campaign funds during the 2006 election cycle. CREW adds, "Barton's 2006 campaign committee also paid Barton's daughter, Kristin Barton, $12,622 in salary and bonuses and paid his mother, Nell Barton, $7,000 for a car." 

Now, here's the deal: there are various conflict-of-interest rules that apply to the personal transactions of members of Congress, but they don't apply to campaign funds. So, if one has a powerful role on, say, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, one can invest those dollars in companies that have extensive business before that committee. It's sleazy, but legal.

And that's what Joe Barton has done. For 20 years. But the econopocalypse hasn't treated his campaign funds any better than it has my mother's retirement account ...

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