Two Illinois congressmen have paid their wives hundreds of thousands of dollars out of their campaign funds in the last decade, according to records filed with the Federal Election Commission.
The campaign to re-elect Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. has given wife Sandi Jackson's company at least $315,000 for her work. Rep. Bobby Rush's campaign has paid his wife, Carolyn Rush, more than $240,000 to serve as a consultant.
Two other Chicago-area congressmen, Danny Davis and Luis Gutierrez, have given their wives smaller amounts for doing campaign work. The four lawmakers, all Democrats, were re-elected last week.
The campaign payments to spouses did not involve any taxpayer money, and the practice has been declared legal if certain requirements are met. Nevertheless, some watchdog groups see the potential for abuse when a lawmaker's family receives financial support from his political backers.
"Is there anything patently wrong with having a family member work on a campaign?" said Dave Levinthal, communications director at the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. "Arguably not. But it gets into sticky territory when the candidate, him or herself, stands to benefit personally in a significant way from political donations that are being made to fuel political efforts."