After the Rep. Cummings Scandal, Should Congressional Charities Be Banned?

A good rule of thumb is that congressional charities are extremely suspect. Charities involving the CBC should be doubly banned. The number of scandals involving Congressional Black Caucus charities are legion.

But then there's this straightforward money funnel.

A charity run by the wife of Rep. Elijah Cummings received millions from special interest groups and corporations that had business before her husband’s committee and could have been used illegally, according to an IRS complaint filed by an ethics watchdog group.

Cummings, 68, a Maryland Democrat, is chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. His wife, Maya Rockeymoore, 48, is the chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party and briefly ran in the state's gubernatorial race last year. The couple married in 2008. Cummings was once heavily in debt — in part due to hefty child support payments to his first wife and two other women he had children with — but his financial situation has improved considerably over the past decade.

Rockeymoore runs two entities, a nonprofit group called the Center for Global Policy Solutions and a for-profit consulting firm called Global Policy Solutions, LLC, whose operations appear to have overlapped, according to the IRS complaint filed by watchdog group the National Legal and Policy Center on Monday. The complaint states that the arrangement may have been used to derive "illegal private benefit."

Global Policy Solutions received more than $6.2 million in grants between 2013 and 2016, according to tax records. Several of the nonprofit group’s financial backers — which included Google, J.P Morgan, and Prudential — have business interests before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Cummings has served as Democratic chairman of the committee since January and previously served as ranking member.

The specific overlap involved a management fee paid by Cummings' wife's non-profit to her consulting firm.

Maya Rockeymoore Cummings’s charity, the Center for Global Policy Solutions (CGPS), paid her for-profit venture, Global Policy Solutions LLC, over $250,000 in “management fees” between 2013 and 2015, according to the charity’s audited financial statements covering those years. The management fees were paid in addition to a cost-sharing agreement where the charity pays for its share of equipment, personnel and other expenditures.

This is a straightforward gimmick that pervades the non-profit world. The effects of it have been devastating in the political space. And it ought to be regulated out of existence.

But when it comes to members of Congress, the situation is much more problematic as major corporate donors appear to have the ability to move money into the Cummings bank account through this convoluted process.

The problem is very simple. And the regulatory solution ought to be simple too.

Members of Congress and their spouses should not be able to profit from financial arrangements like these. And that means they should not be able to run charities, certainly not if they receive any payments from them or through them.