WASHINGTON Rep. Chris Cannon's cooperation with his lobbyist brother Joe Cannon has earned him attention on a list of "corrupt" members of Congress.
The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington named Cannon, a Republican who represents Utah's 3rd Congressional District, as one of five "members to watch" in its second annual report ranking the 20 "most corrupt" members of Congress.
The group, known as CREW, gave Cannon a "dishonorable mention" because of his "abuse of his position to benefit his brother Joseph Cannon, a registered lobbyist."
Chris Cannon has maintained that he treats his brother as he would any other lobbyist.
Joe Cannon is also the chairman of the Utah Republican Party and on the board of directors of the Deseret Morning News.
Joe Cannon told the newspaper Wednesday afternoon that in light of the recent criticisms "I've decided not to lobby my brother anymore. I won't take clients to see him. If they want to talk to him, I'm just telling them to go call him themselves."
According to the CREW report, Joe Cannon has repeatedly sought his brother's assistance on behalf of clients. "Rep. Cannon has a financial interest in his brother's lobbying success because Joseph Cannon owes him more than $250,000 from his unsuccessful 1992 campaign for the U.S. Senate," it said.
Joe Cannon said he only talked to his brother about two issues issues that any other lobbyist handling those issues would have talked to Rep. Cannon about anyway.
The report said Rep. Cannon, along with three other lawmakers, pushed for a congressional hearing on a proposed contract affecting Internet companies. Joe Cannon is a lobbyist for Network Solutions Inc., which sells Web addresses and opposes a price increase it would pay to another company under the pending agreement. Rep. Cannon signed a letter asking for a congressional hearing on the deal.
Charles Isom, Chris Cannon's spokesman, said the congressman has a long history on Internet issues, and it was not like his brother came to him asking for support on an issue he knew nothing about.
"This is something he is very familiar with, and had anyone come to him with this, he would have signed it," Isom said.
Isom said any notion that Joe Cannon has "undue influence" on the congressman "is wrong."
No federal laws prohibit relatives from lobbying lawmakers, but CREW points to rules that prohibit House members from "taking any official actions for the prospect of personal gain for themselves or anyone else."
"Rep. Cannon's intervention into an Internet-contract business dispute on behalf of his brother's client clearly does not reflect creditably on the House," according to the CREW report.
CREW claims that by helping his brother, Chris Cannon "is improving his own financial status as well," because of the debt owed from the 1992 campaign.
Isom said the campaign debt has been there for awhile, and claiming that the congressman is helping his brother in order to get this debt repaid is "stretching it a little."
Isom also cited a 2005 editorial from The Hill, a newspaper that covers Congress, criticizing CREW for not being clear as to who is running the organization and contending that much of the criticism targets Republicans.
In the report released Wednesday, CREW also mentioned Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., who is now serving an eight-year jail term for bribery. Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, who has agreed to plead guilty to federal corruption charges, appeared in last year's report.
The list named Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont.; Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.; and Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., as the most corrupt in the Senate. The list included 17 House members, including Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., who had $90,000 cash in his freezer when FBI agents searched his home."CREW created this exhaustive go-to guide on corruption in Congress to expose and hold accountable those members of Congress who believe they are above the law," Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, said Wednesday. "The officials named in this report have chosen to enrich themselves and their families and friends by abusing the power of their office, rather than work for the public good. Their collective corruption affects all Americans."
Contributing: Bob Bernick Jr.