A Republican congressman who is a close ally with President Donald Trump is now facing criticism for hiring two of his own family members, paying them as full-time campaign staffers for over a decade.
Rep. Steve King of Iowa has paid $805,000 since 2004 to his son and daughter-in-law, Jeff and Lindsay King, according to The Des Moines Register. While there is nothing illegal about the arrangement and it does not waste taxpayer money (the funds come from political donors), it does raise ethical questions because of the obvious potential conflict of interest. As the Register put it:
Over the years, Jeff King’s salary has ranged from around $30,000 to more than $60,000 annually, and has included lump-sum bonus payments in addition to twice-monthly paychecks. Jeff King’s wife, Lindsay King, has been paid for work as an office assistant, office manager and data entry clerk since 2010, typically drawing an annual salary of nearly $30,000.
It is unusual for a congressman to employ members of his own family in these types of roles for such a prolonged period.
That said, the key ethical questions involve whether Jeff and Lindsay King are qualified to do the work for which they've been hired and whether they are being paid a rate commensurate with what is normally given out for their type of professional responsibilities. A member of the Committee for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told the Register that the amount they seem to have been paid does match market rates for the work that Jeff and Lindsay King were hired to do.
King has been the center of controversy in the past. In March, King made an arguably racist statement while defending Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders: "Wilders understands that culture and demographics are destiny. We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies." And in September he responded to concerns about repealing DACA by saying that Dreamers "came here to live in the shadows and we’re not denying them that opportunity to live in the shadows."