Monday, March 05, 2007

Democrats Fail to Tighten Ethics Rules

Public Citizen and others had pushed to require the spouses and family members of Congressional staff to pay taxes when private organizations pay for them to travel, but Democrats maintained the old rules.

Oh wait - you didn't know that private organizations paid for travel for lawmakers and their spouses? Read on:

The House ethics panel’s new travel regulations fail to tell members and staff they might have to pay taxes when they take family members on trips paid for by outside groups.

But that is what will happen if the IRS sides with Public Citizen, the watchdog group, in a complaint filed in October saying lawmakers and families should live by the same tax rules as everyone else.

“This is a complaint the IRS isn’t going to be able to sidestep,” said Craig Holman, the Public Citizen lobbyist who lodged the complaint. “The IRS isn’t going to let me not pay taxes on income like that.”

For years, family members have joined lawmakers on junkets without paying taxes on the value of the travel, meals and lodging. Most people outside of Congress would have to report such a trip as income.

Public Citizen sought to end that discrepancy last year, filing a complaint noting that there is no written exemption to the tax law for members of Congress.

Despite this, the “regulations, forms, and instructions” issued last month by the ethics committee make no changes in response to the complaint and do not warn lawmakers and staff about the potential tax consequences...

Staffers for the House ethics and Ways and Means committees did not respond to repeated requests for comment, though Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) told The Hill he’d never looked at the matter.

Public Citizen’s complaint cited an opinion from the Ways and Means Committee issued last year to The Detroit News, which first raised the question of taxing spousal travel.

“Congressional spouses have an official and public role quite different from the spouses of normal business executives,” the committee wrote. “The travel is permitted under the ethics rules on the grounds that it is related to the official duties of the office...”

Meet the new boss...


Anonymous said...

So you are saying that dems are just as corrupt as repubs?

The Editor at IP said...

I won't argue that; you could put it that way. Another accurate way to phrase it is that the Democrats lied about their intentions to change things.

The Editor