Rohrabacher defends payments made to wife

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) on Monday denounced a report by a political watchdog group that lists him among politicians who benefit personally from their offices or extend benefits to family members.

“Family Affair,” the report by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, D.C., reviewed every sitting member of the House of Representatives through the 2008 and 2010 elections. Rohrabacher, who lives in Costa Mesa, was among 248 politicians profiled and one of 25 from California.

The group, known as CREW, noted that the congressman got more than $60,000 in reimbursements from his campaign committee during the last two election cycles, while his wife received nearly $200,000 in salary and reimbursements during the same time.

Rohrabacher, a 12-term member who represents the 46th Congressional District and chairs the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, confirmed the figures but said they hardly qualified as news.

“This is maybe the 20th time I’ve commented, because every other year, the same thing comes up,” he said. “Half the members of Congress aren’t rich, and the ones who aren’t rich have to work.”

According to the report, the Committee to Re-elect Congressman Dana Rohrabacher paid the representative’s wife, Rhonda Rohrabacher, $74,425 in 2008 and $85,810 in 2010.

The committee also reimbursed Dana Rohrabacher $63,926 for telephone bills, fundraising, postage, furniture rental and other expenses, in addition to reimbursing his wife $8,144 for office supplies, fundraising and snacks.

In a news release, the group called Rohrabacher’s methods “egregious” and stated that he had “abused his position.”

“Running for public office has become quite lucrative for the Rohrabacher family,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in the news release. “I wonder how tough the interview process was when Ms. Rohrabacher first applied for the job. Conduct like this reinforces the widely held view that members of Congress are more interested in enriching themselves and their family members than in public service.”

The congressman, though, said his wife had been a campaign manager even before their marriage and that she fully qualified for her salary.

“There is absolutely nothing sinister about this,” Rohrabacher said. “Everything is legal and totally transparent.”

The report acknowledges that many of the politicians’ actions described in it are legal and urges the Department of Justice, Federal Election Commission and House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to determine whether any of them violates the law.

Federal Election Commission guidelines state that family members may receive campaign funds as salary payments as long as they provide a “bona fide service” to the campaign and are paid at fair market value.

Twitter: @MichaelMillerHB