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US senators owe a thank-you to the returned American hostages. Federal law limits government employees from accepting more than $25,000 a year for making speeches and writing articles. The 52 Americans who came back from Iran have received many such requests.

But at the request of several former hostages, the Federal Election Commission recently ruled that the limit on outside income could be circumvented by spreading the payments over more than one year.

Senators (who fall under the same outside income limitation) also will benefit from the ruling. Many of them expand their $60,662-per-year salaries with generous fees for outside speaking engagements. Thanks to the former hostages, they'll be able to trade on their political status even more.

House members, however, are held by their own ethics code to an outside income of $9,099.37.m

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