As America waits, ever patiently, for the economic recovery to trickle down to the rest of us, at least we won't have to worry about Kevin Cramer. This former radio host has figured out a way to get a piece of the pie not just for himself but for many of his relatives as well. Unfortunately, he's cashing in because he's a congressman, so his method probably won't work for us poor slobs who have to work for a living.
First, let's be clear that Cramer, a North Dakota Republican, is a hard-working politician who earns every penny of his $174,000 annual salary. Sure, he works an average of three days a week in what is on track to be the least productive congress in modern history, but that doesn't mean Cramer isn't working hard, guys.
For example, he was even working hard during the government shutdown. More than 100 members of congress refused to take their paychecks, but Kevin deserved his.
"My office is open, we're taking phone calls, I'm voting every day, I'm debating every day, I'm going to countless meetings. I'm working to earn the salary that the people pay me to do the job," he said. He was too busy to count all those meetings! So heck no, he wasn't giving up his paycheck. "I will continue to earn it, and I will continue to collect what I earn, yes."
Here's some of the things he works so hard on: He's stopping a clandestine plot the Environmental Protection Agency to use top secret maps to regulate all of North Dakota. The maps are so secret, in fact, that they don't actually exist, but he's on it.
When it comes to farmers, he's pulling double duty as both a hard-liner who opposes federal farm subsidies and as a politician who takes credit for leading the fight for the farm bill. When local farmers objected, Cramer said... well, I'm not sure exactly.
"Why would I run an ad that depicted I took credit for something I didn't want I mean your head had to be on backwards if to even, that doesn't make any sense if it's such a great idea to not have one why would I be worrying about passing one," said Cramer. And he's right. It's doesn't make sense.
He works so hard he even won an award as a member of the House Science Committee. Of course, the award was The Congressional Climate Denier Award for calling global warming "fraudulent science" and a conspiracy to help wind farms. But hey, an award's an award.
With all this going on in Washington—working three days a week, y'all!—it's a wonder Cramer ever found time to cook up this scheme. Odds are, if you're in Cramer's family, you're also on his campaign payroll.
His wife draws a salary and gets reimbursed for stuff, all of which totaled up to $40,542 since 2013. One daughter did some consulting for the campaign and then got a little job on the payroll, making her $2,468. Another daughter co-owns a video production company that got some work from her dad's campaign, making another $3,100. Every little bit helps.
All of this is probably legal because we're just talking about his campaign account. If he did this on the government payroll, it would be called nepotism. Since he's just using special interest money to boost his family's bottom line, it's called being a good provider.
And don't worry about ol' Kevin. He's not just throwing money at his wife and kids. There's some left over for himself, too. In the first half of 2014, he paid himself per diems and mileage reimbursements that totaled $14,040. It gets expensive driving around to tell farmers that he wasn't actually opposing the farm bill when he was trying to kill their agriculture subsidies.
According to the experts, Cramer is a likely bet for re-election, and nothing he's doing is illegal. Most politicians don't feather their beds like Cramer because people don't like it when congressmen get paid to be clueless and lazy while using special interest money to supplement their income. It looks bad. You never know. You might lose the election.
© Copyright 2014 Jason Stanford, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Jason Stanford is a regular contributor to the Austin American-Statesman, a Democratic consultant and a Truman National Security Project partner. You can email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JasStanford.