WASHINGTON – Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson has paid his son $55,900 since January 2013 to be his campaign treasurer — an arrangement that raises eyebrows for an ethics group concerned that Peterson’s immediate family is benefiting from campaign contributions.
Elliott Peterson, the 12-term congressman’s son, lives in Murfreesburo, Tenn., and has worked for his father’s campaign for 14 years, according to campaign-finance reports. He took on additional responsibilities about eight years ago, Peterson said.
In this cycle, Elliott has collected $1,595 in salary every two weeks, and his father’s campaign also covers his cellphone and Internet bills.
“It’s actually very hard to find someone to do this,” Peterson said, noting that the issue has come up before. “It’s not easy to find somebody who knows accounting … and knows the election laws. … The biggest reason I use him is I trust him. He knows me. He saves us money because he’s tough on spending.”
The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington called Peterson’s arrangement with his son “egregious.” In a report analyzing every sitting U.S. House member in the 2008 and 2010 election cycles, the group found that 82 members — 40 Democrats and 42 Republicans — paid family members through congressional offices, campaign committees and political action committees.
Federal laws have restrictions on nepotism for members to pay relatives from their official congressional offices, but the practice is permitted under federal election laws.
Peterson isn’t the first member of the Minnesota delegation who had this kind of arrangement with family. In 2006, Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison’s then-wife was also his campaign treasurer — until she filed reports late multiple times and was levied a fine.
Peterson, who has two other sons, insists that his loyal donors know that Elliott is managing the finances and that they have no problem with it. His son has collected $414,000 in salary, Internet and cell reimbursements since March 2000, which includes seven campaign cycles. Elliott Peterson is also director of music at First United Methodist Church in Murfreesburo.
“He does a good job,” Peterson said. “We’re lucky to have him.”
Elliott Peterson was recently offered a similar gig with another campaign, and he quoted that campaign a higher price than what he’s getting paid by his father’s campaign, Rep. Peterson said. “We’re getting a deal,” he said.