Watchdog group: Wilson case shows need for Congressional reform

Troy Wilde | Public News Service – NM

Heather Wilson (Photo courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives.)

Heather Wilson (Photo courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives.)

SANTA FE — A watchdog group says former U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson of New Mexico was being paid big money by nuclear laboratories immediately after she left Congress, and that situation shows the need for Congress to reform itself. The Albuquerque Journal is reporting that Wilson started a $10,000-per-month consulting job with Sandia National Laboratories, which was located in her erstwhile Congressional District, on her first day out of office in early 2009. 

According to Jay Coghlan, director at Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Wilson finalized the deal with Sandia while still in office. Wilson told the Journal she couldn’t recall exactly when she made the deal final. Coghlan declared that Wilson’s actions were not illegal but that the ethics of the matter are in question.

“But to have this trail of financial links to the laboratories while advocating that taxpayer monies be spent on the laboratories: now, that just doesn’t smell right. ”

Wilson told the Journal that she complied with all congressional rules and policies related to her post-Congress consulting business.

Coghlan says Congress should add laws limiting its former members making money within industries where they were involved while in office.

“Members of Congress should be prohibited – for, I would say, two years – from entering directly into financial contracts with essentially the clients that they helped serve,” he said.

The Journal cited a Department of Energy inspector general’s report which found evidence of prohibited lobbying in Wilson’s contract. Wilson and Sandia have both denied the finding. The Journal also said Sandia has repaid the government more than $200,000 it paid to Wilson from 2009 to 2011.

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