The greatest latitude was provided to lawmakers whose business interests aligned with major industries within their home states. "If a dairy farmer represented a dairy farming state in the Senate, and introduced, worked for, and voted for legislation to raise or maintain price supports for dairy producers, he would not fall under the strictures of this rule," the Senate ethics manual says.
Dozens of lawmakers identified in the Post analysis fell into this category. In interviews, prepared statements and on their congressional Web sites, lawmakers routinely pointed to their home states' needs as the driving cause for their legislative agendas.
For example, Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., owns between $1 million and $5 million in her family's livestock business in Wyoming, where the state animal is the bison and cattle ranches dot the landscape.
She is one of 15 lawmakers co-sponsoring a bill that would double, from 10 years to 20 years, the duration of federal grazing permits for livestock that feeds on publicly held lands. Her husband, records show, holds a permit through 2017 to graze cattle on 675 acres of federal land.
Last year, Lummis also introduced a bill that seeks to change how cattle prices are negotiated to ensure, she says, that ranchers and farmers are fairly compensated. She is also one of the co-sponsors of a bill to exclude livestock manure from being defined as a hazardous substance.
All three bills are pending.
In an interview, Lummis said she that did not seek guidance on the bills from the ethics committee but that she thinks her actions present no potential for conflict.
The livestock marketing bill, she said, would force slaughterhouses to be more transparent about their pricing but would have no financial bearing on her family's large ranching operation. The bill to exclude manure would primarily affect producers who confine their livestock, unlike her family's open-range ranch near Cheyenne, Lummis said.