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Senator Johnson Scrutinized Over Spending

February 9, 2012, 6:00 PM by Don Jorgensen

Senator Johnson Scrutinized Over Spending
Serious questions are being raised about government spending, specifically targeting several members of Congress, including South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson.

The Washington Post is reporting Johnson is one of 16 lawmakers who is accused of using political clout to send millions of taxpayer dollars to groups connected to their friends and relatives.

The Washington Post examined all 535 members of Congress, comparing their financial disclosure statements with thousands of public records.

The Post reports in 2008 Senator Johnson, who is a member of the Appropriations Committee, helped earmark $4 million to the Starbase program.

At the time, Johnson's wife, Barbara, was paid an annual salary of $80,000 as a contract employee to evaluate it. She was also assigned to manage its website. 

"Everything Senator Johnson did is completely within the rules," Perry Plumart, a spokesman for Senator Johnson, said.

Senate rules state earmarking money to a workplace of relatives is permissible as long as tax dollars aren't going directly to them. 

"It's not what the Senate rules committee or Office of Management and Budget defines as an earmark; there's no conflict of interest, and there's no issue here," Plumart said.

But government watchdog groups say the Senator's actions raise a red flag.

"What Senator Johnson did in earmarking money for Starbase wasn't necessarily any kind of violation of policy on Capitol Hill, but it doesn't look good for a Senator, or any member of Congress, to direct money to an organization that employs a member of the family," President of Citizens Against Government Waste Tom Schatz said.

The Washington Post report comes at a time when Congress is already struggling with its image and critics say members should do more to win back the confidence of the American people. 

"Just to be more prudent and to avoid these kinds of questions Senator Johnson probably shouldn't have put his name on the earmark," Schatz said.

If you'd like to read the full Washington Post story, click here

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