Congress full of fortunate sons -- and other relatives





In 1986, at least 24 U.S. senators and representatives were closely related to governors or other members of Congress, USA TODAY research shows.

Twenty years later, there are more than 50 -- among them four sets of siblings, four widows, dozens of offspring, the wife of a former Senate majority leader and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, wife of a former president and governor.

No official records are kept, but Senate historian Richard Baker says the concentration of relatives is extraordinary. "Sometimes the children of public figures are kept in the shadows," he says. "Now we're seeing this trend or pattern of all in the family."

No official records are kept, but Senate historian Richard Baker says the concentration of relatives is extraordinary. "Sometimes the children of public figures are kept in the shadows," he says. "Now we're seeing this trend or pattern of all in the family."

There may be more relatives after the Nov. 7 election:

*At least two children of retiring House members want to succeed them: Republican Gus Bilirakis of Florida and Democrat Chris Owens of New York.

*Two governors' sons are seeking Senate seats: Democrat Bob Casey in Pennsylvania and Republican Tom Kean in New Jersey.

*Two children are vying for the same Democratic House nomination in Maryland: John Sarbanes, son of Sen. Paul Sarbanes, and Peter Beilenson, son of former California representative Anthony Beilenson.

*In Nevada, Jack Carter, son of former president Jimmy Carter, is running for Senate. Republican Dawn Gibbons wants to succeed husband Jim in the House; he's running for governor.

Congress-watchers such as Norman Ornstein say the many relatives can fuel Capitol Hill's image as an insider's club. But not all relatives win, they say, and those who do often bring valuable experience and respect for the job.

"They have less tendency to run against the institution or to view it with contempt," Ornstein says.

In a sense, politics is a business like any other, and lawmakers are like any parents passing a legacy to their children. "If you're a baker, you leave a bakery," says Stephen Hess, author of who wrote America's Political Dynasties. "If you're a politician, you give them a nice gerrymandered district."

Or perhaps a country, in the cases of Presidents John Quincy Adams and George W. Bush. Or a Senate seat, a gift former senator Frank Murkowski gave his daughter Lisa when he became governor of Alaska and appointed her to replace him.




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Randll Reese Besch - 8/12/2006

Now more than ever this mixing of certain lineages to be in power over the centuries needs to come out again.
A book in the 1970's did it and needs to be updated.These rulers travel in the same circles and intermarry then groom their offspring for corporate and political control. Some of our founders must be cursing their failure. Thus the 'Inheritance Tax' was one measure about to fall.They didn't want to repeat what England had.

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