Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Price Of Power--How Congressmen Buy Chairmanship Of Committees

Print Friendly Version of this pagePrint Get a PDF version of this webpagePDF
A new report exposes the secretive money system in which members of Congress--both parties--"buy" top spots on the most powerful committees.

To raise the money, they often collect from the very interests their committees are supposed to regulate.

As a pastor and concerned citizen, I have been a close observer of our political system over the years.

I thought I had probably seen and heard it all.

I was mistaken.

The following is drawn from Full Measure, a syndicated TV news program hosted by Sharyl Attkisson, a 5-time Emmy Award winner and recipient of the Edward R. Murrow award for investigative reporting. She is a former reporter for CBS.

I have also drawn from Sharyl's interview with Issue One regarding an investigative report they have recently released regarding the corrupt way in which our elected politicians in Congress "buy" their position and power.

I have also included my own comments. I strongly recommend you read the full report linked above.

Nick Penniman, who led the investigative report, told Attkisson, "It's a perverse system. In fact, it's the inverse of what we all as citizens should want."

He calls it "dialing for dollars." The report reveals how both parties use the members of Congress as cash cows for their party's political machinery. The best fundraisers are rewarded with powerful positions that decide the laws affecting all of us.

Penniman found that both parties have similar "dues" that members have to pay every two years by raising money directly for the party.

This is understandable---to a point. If you believe in something, support it.

However. The "dialing for dollars" determines which politician, once elected by the folks back home, gets ahead in DC, and which doesn't.

It's likely that many citizens believe that the committee chairmen are chosen on the basis of merit, not because of how much money they raise.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. It's money over merit. The best fundraisers are rewarded with the best and most powerful positions.

This probably explains why the Democrats stay with their leader Nancy Pelosi.

How much money?

If you want to be a chairman of a major committee in Congress, and you're a Republican, you've got to deliver $1.2 million to the Republican National Congressional Committee. Democrats require about the same thing.

Buying privilege. Using other people's money.

The $1.2 million will get you an "A" committee chair. Republicans who chair secondary or "B" committees are expected to raise $875,000 in dues.

However, the top Republican in the House of Representatives (Speaker Paul Ryan) has to raise $20 million and the number two Majority Leader job costs $10 million.

The investigative report reveals that these details have been held tightly to the vest, by both parties, for years.

Former elected officials from both parties told those doing this investigative report that it's near impossible to do your job, because of the time required to sit on the phone raising money.

When "dialing for dollars," our elected officials spend more than 20 hours per week in the little phone cubical.

The committees, usually in the spring---they just did this a month ago--- come out with a quota and it lists the various amounts the "public servant" is supposed to raise, depending on the position of influence.

Keep in mind there are personal benefits that accrue to politicians who chair committees, etc.,--- like pay increases and many other perks.

If the politician has enough money in their campaign account they can simply cut a check to the party for their "dues"; however, if there is not enough left in that fund, they go into little booths and "dial for dollars."

The party gives the public servant a list of people to call---people that they often don't know, and people who don't really want to be called---and they ask them for money. They tell them the Party is having a dinner party, etc., for XYZ reason and would you give $10, $20, $50 thousand dollars to underwrite the event.

The caller keeps a running tally of how much he or she raises, and you see those politicians advance ---or not---based on their results.

The problem for us citizens is that these public servants are essentially shaking down the very interest groups we elected them to supervise and regulate. And as chairman, they have even more power to make favorable decisions for the special interest groups over the interests of us citizens who elect and finance them.

Insiders say the call lists are regularly matched to the politician's committee responsibilities.

Penniman, with Issue One, says, "The big joke in Washington is that the financial services committee is called the cash committee. Not because it deals with finances, but because just being on it allows you to raise so much money from bank lobbyists and bankers that it's like an ATM machine. The cash just pours in."

From 2009 to 2016, Republican chairman of the finance committee, Jeb Hensarling, raised $10.1 million---half of it from finance, insurance, and real estate interests. He transferred $8.6 million to the National Republican Campaign Committee and other House Republicans.

The Finance Committee's top Democrat, Maxine Waters---who has been calling for President Trump's impeachment since before he took office--raised $3.7 million from finance, insurance, and real estate interests. She transferred about $798,000 of that to the Democratic Congressional Campaign and other House Democrats.

Hensarling and Waters were contacted by Issue One for a comment. Neither returned the call.

Some congressmen, to their credit, are trying to push back on this corrupt system, however, again, insiders told those investigating that you won't advance if you don't play the game.

Some said they have been openly ridiculed publicly in meetings for not "making the calls," "not raising enough money."

Does this not make prostitutes of elected officials that we support and vote for in good faith?

When your elected official sends you their next report and includes the fact they have been given the chairmanship of a committee, restrain your applause because we are now informed.

The conclusion by those who did the report: "It really needs to change and it's going to take the country because I can tell you, they're not going to change it because they're stuck in a system and they're proliferating against each other, the two parties."

It was Samuel Adams who said in a letter to James Warren dated November 4, 1775,

"Nothing is more essential to the establishment of manners in a State than that all persons employed in places of power and trust be men of unexceptionable characters. The public cannot be too curious concerning the character of public men." [And women]

Be Curious.


Be informed. Be Vigilant. Be Discerning. Be Prayerful.