Family Ties Bind Federal Lawmakers to Lobbyists

North Dakota senators Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad are two of 19 members of Congress whose family members have worked as lobbyists.
There are more than 11,000 active lobbyists working in Washington, D.C., all well-paid for their ability to influence officials, especially members of Congress.

When it comes to influence, family ties are hard to beat, CBS News Investigative Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports.

Our three-month-long CBS News investigation takes a look at Congress' family ties.

Democratic senators Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad have a lot in common. They're both from North Dakota. Both of their wives got jobs as big time lobbyists. Both have taken positions that benefited their wives' clients.

As long as they follow the rules, it's perfectly legal, but critics say that doesn't make it right.

A CBS News investigation has identified 19 federal lobbyists closely related to members of Congress, including dads, wives, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, in-laws and more.

There are some restrictions. For example, lobbyists can't lobby their own husband or wife in Congress or their staff

But watchdog Craig Holman says everyone knows where their bread is buttered.

"We're allowing family members of senators and congressmen to be employed at very lucrative salaries by the same corporations that have business pending before Congress," said Holman. "It's just an obvious conflict of interest that should not be allowed."

Section 302: Restrictions on Spousal Lobbying

There's a reason why companies hire family members of Congress to lobby in directly related fields, Holman said.

Democrats Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Daniel Inouye of Hawaii are on a Senate technology and communications committee. Pryor's brother lobbies for Microsoft; Inouye's son lobbies for Verizon and Motorola.

Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., is on the committee overseeing the Coast Guard. Her daughter lobbies for a company that sells Coast Guard products.

Rep. Bill Young, R.-Fla., sits on the defense spending committee. His daughter-in-law lobbies for defense contractors that have been awarded many millions in tax dollars.

Dorgan, Brown and Pryor didn't respond to our questions. The others say they follow or surpass all rules. For example, Conrad's wife gave up a client during the health-care debate to avoid even the appearance of a conflict.

When it comes to family ties, it's hard to beat the railroads.

Bill Lipinski and Bud Shuster used to be lead congressmen on railroad committees. They left, their sons were elected, and now they're on the railroads committee.

Today, the dads lobby for railroads. So do the father and brother of a top staffer on the railroads committee.

Rep. Daniel Lipinski told CBS News his dad doesn't lobby him or need the family connections. Shuster didn't respond to our questions.

"They're finding ways to throw money at the feet of the members of Congress, and you do it through the family members," Holman, the watchdog, said.

The members of Congress would likely disagree. They insist no matter who's in the family - even a lobbyist - they can keep it separate from the nation's business.

Details and Individual Responses to Members of Congress Regarding Relatives Who Lobby

Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)
Elected: 1997
Married: 2003
Wife, Abigail, lobbyist since before their marriage
Two Roy Blunt children (from a previous marriage), Amy and Andrew, state lobbyists
Wife's client: Kraft Foods

Blunt sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which makes decisions that affect Kraft Foods, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Globalization Act of 2009. The act would have strengthened FDA's oversight and ability to regulate certain foods. Abigail Blunt lobbied on the bill but not in the House.

"Congressman and Mrs. Blunt have a stricter policy than required by the House of Representatives: Mrs. Blunt does not lobby anyone in the House of Representatives on behalf of Kraft Foods, which employs more than 2,500 Missourians. Congressman Blunt has also stated that he would recuse himself from voting or taking action on any measure that would affect Kraft Foods solely."

Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.)
Elected in 1991
Daughter, Shantrel Brown-Fields, lobbyist since at least 2000

Clients include: Will Interactive, which has several federal clients including the U.S. Coast Guard. Brown sits on the House Subcommitee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.

No response.

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.)
Elected in 1997
Niece, Susan, lobbyist since 2004

Clients include: Tyco and Coviden. She has lobbied on foreign tax issues. Bunning sits on the Banking and Finance Committee, which deals with foreign tax issues.

No response.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.)
Elected in 2001
Son, C. Saxby Bo Jr., lobbyist from 2004 until end of December 2009

C. Saxby Bo Jr. lobbied for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which focuses largely on agriculture commodities futures. Chambliss is the ranking member of the Agriculture Committee that regulates agriculture markets and trading.

"When Bo Chambliss was hired by CME Group, a policy was clearly established between Bo and Sen. Chambliss. Bo did not lobby the personal office, nor did he lobby the agriculture committee. As of December 2009, he is no longer a lobbyist and no longer resides in D.C."

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.)
Elected in 1993
Cousin, William, lobbyist

"William has served as Vice Chairman of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board and as Counsel to three United States Senators. He is highly qualified to do his job, and is very capable of doing it without relying on my assistance. I see no reason that he should be penalized because he has the misfortune of having a cousin who serves in the Congress."

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.)
Elected to Senate in 1987
Married: 1987
Wife, Lucy Calautti, lobbyist as of 2000

Current and past clients include: Major League Baseball and Amedisys. Conrad was a lead negotiator on Baucus plan for health care, which negotiated less severe Medicare cuts. After it was announced, Amedisys stock increased 8 percent on the news.

"Senator Conrad's wife, Lucy Calautti, has close to 30 years of professional experience working in government. She is currently a lobbyist for Major League Baseball and strictly adheres to the rules of the Senate. Additionally, the Senator and his wife have a firm rule prohibiting her from lobbying his Senate office, staff, and committees on which he serves. Ms. Calautti's major representation is for major league baseball, and she also does work for Corning. She previously represented Amedisys, but withdrew as the health reform debate began to avoid even the appearance of a conflict. Ms. Calautti formally severed her ties with Amedisys on July 31, 2009. The Frontier Amendment, written by Senator Dorgan and co-sponsored by Senator Conrad, improves Medicare reimbursement for doctors and hospitals in five rural states. Amedisys does not - does NOT - benefit from this amendment. The Baucus plan - which included $42.1 billion dollars in cuts to home health care - was not announced until September 16, well after Ms. Calautti had severed her work for Amedisys. Additionally, the Baucus plan's home health provisions were based almost entirely on MedPAC's recommendations, which were published and widely circulated in March 2009 Proportionally, home health suffered one of the largest cuts of any provider under the Baucus plan. Further, there is a firm rule in the Conrad-Calautti household that she does not lobby the senator or his office. Ms. Calautti never lobbied any members or their staffs on the subject of cuts to home health care."

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
Elected to Senate in 1991 (House in 1981)
Married: 1985
Wife, Kimberly, lobbyist as of 1998

Client: American Council of Life Insurers. Dorgan was considered a key vote against so-called "cramdown" legislation, an issue his wife lobbied on for the ACLI in 2009, according to an FEC lobbying report filed by the Council.

No response.

Staffer Jennifer Esposito
Named Democratic Majority Staff Director for House Railroads Subcommittee in January 2007
Father, Sante, lobbyist (former Democratic chief counsel of House Transportation Committee)
Brother, Michael, lobbyist (former intern for House Transportation Committee)

Shortly after Esposito became majority staff director for House Subcommittee on Railroads, her father and brother were retained as lobbyists for railway clients.

No response. In the past, father and son have been quoted as saying they don't lobby family members.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)
Elected to Senate in 2009 (House 2007)
Dad, Douglas Rutnick, state lobbyist since at least 2005

Current and past clients: Philip Morris tobacco company, Altria (parent company to Philip Morris), Cablevision

"Senator Gillibrand has never worked at other local levels of government. Mr. Rutnik never lobbied on federal issues or served as a federal lobbyist."

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)
Elected in 1977
Son, Scott, lobbyist since 1998

Sen. Hatch is a longtime supporter of pharmaceutical interests. Scott Hatch lobbies for PhRMA, the pharmaceutical lobby, and other pharmaceutical interests.

"Everyone who knows Scott knows him to be a decent, honest man who lives up to the highest levels of ethics. He never lobbies me nor my office and any insinuation to the contrary is simply outrageous."

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii)
Elected in 1967
Son, Ken, lobbyist since at least 2003

Current and past clients include: Motion Picture Association of America, News Corp, Verizon, Motorola and Liberty Media.

"There is no conflict. The Senator's son Ken does not participate in Senate projects and works exclusively on the House side. He is employed by the Fritts Group, a firm that represents CBS on Capitol Hill."

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.)
Elected in 1993
Sister, Barbara, lobbyist since at least 1999
Son is Vice President of a lobby firm since 2006 but is not a registered lobbyist

"Neither Congressman King nor his office deals with his sister in anyway concerning lobbying activities. Additionally, none of the Congressman's committees (Intelligence, Homeland Security, Financial Services) deal with Beth Israel."

Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio)
Elected in 1995
Wife, Deborah, lobbyist (former LaTourette chief-of-staff)

Clients include: Spokane Transit Authority, Airports Council International-North America, Federal Technology Group, Pima Community College, Center for Responsible Lending, the Methodist Hospital System, City of Glendale Arizona.

LaTourette serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee overseeing nearly all federal funding.

"We have done everything in our power to avoid even potential conflicts, and my wife voluntarily divested herself of all Ohio clients, despite ethics guidance that it was not necessary. We will continue to abide by all House rules."

Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.)
Elected in 2005
Dad, Bill (Congressman from 1983-2005), lobbyist

"Bill Lipinski does not have any need for family connections in his work, given the deep knowledge and policy expertise that he developed over his 22-year career in Congress. In addition, as Congressman Lipinski has stated repeatedly, his father does not lobby him on railroad, transportation, or any other issues. In these, as in other areas, Congressman Lipinski is staunchly independent and focused on doing what is best for his constituents."

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.)
Elected in 1977
Son, David, lobbyist since at least 1998

Clients include: American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity

"David Lugar does NOT lobby the senator or staff. The Lugars have made it clear there would not be lobbying contact and they would not discuss clients."

Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.)
Elected in 2003
Dad, Connie Mack III (Congressman from 1989-2001) state lobbyist

No response.

Rep. David Obey (D-Wisc.)
Elected in 1969
Son, Craig, lobbyist

Obey heads up the powerful House Appropriations Committee which oversees nearly all federal spending.

Obey would not put a statement in writing. On the phone, he cited many reasons why he believes there is no conflict in his son's lobbying for parks interests and his own role leading the House committee that determines national park appropriations. Those reasons include: Obey supported parks long before his son was a parks lobbyist; his son should be allowed to work in whatever business he chooses; his son's employment played no role in $2 billion in park stimulus funding from his committee or any other funding; his son has been interested in parks and has been friendly with park contacts since his childhood.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.)
Elected in 2001
Brother, David, Jr., lobbyist since 2001

Client: Microsoft

Pryor is on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that addresses many cyber, online and software issues that could be of interest to Microsoft. Sen. Pryor is also on the Appropriations committee that handles most federal funding.

No response.

Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.)
Elected in 1977
Sister, Tanya, lobbyist since 2006

Rahall represents clean coal interests. Rahall chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, which addresses climate and clean coal issues.

No response.

Senate Major Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
Elected to Senate in 1987 (House in 1983)
Son-in-law, Steven Barringer, lobbyist
Sons former lobbyists: Key (2001-2003 at federal level); Rory, Josh and Leif

"Rory, Josh, and Leif never lobbied on federal legislation. Family members of staff (have been) banned from lobbying the office since June 2006. Steve has been barred from lobbying the office since 2003, as have other family members. This was a voluntary effort by Sen. Reid that went above and beyond the requirement of senate ethics rules."

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)
Elected to Senate in 1997 (House in 1981)
Son, David, lobbyist since at least 2001

Clients have included: Envision Corporation, the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation, Pittsburgh State University

David Roberts' clients have been successful in getting millions of dollars in earmarks but not from father Pat Roberts. Instead, the earmarks have come from Roberts' fellow senator in Kansas: Sen. Sam Brownback.

No response.

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.)
Elected in 2001
Dad, Bud (Congressman from 1972-2001), lobbyist

Shuster is the ranking Republican on the House Subcommittee on Railroads.

No response.

Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.)
Elected in 1971
Daughter-in-law, Cynthia, lobbyist

Young didn't respond in writing but told CBS News his daughter-in-law has never asked him for an earmark and that, under congressional rules, she isn't considered immediate family because she is an in-law.

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    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.