Free and Proper Elections

NCFPE Poltical Blog and News Tracker

Free and Proper Elections - NCFPE Poltical Blog and News Tracker

LOD: Cash &Carry Democracy

Here’s an excerpt from a New York Times story that includes frank talk from the money suppliers (“we are hopeful that investment produces a return”) and from the money raisers, i.e., Members of Congress. The National Journal also writes about the corrupting money chase, with this quote from former NC Congressman Brad Miller: “The only way to get noticed, to win respect, is to raise a lot of money” to give to other members, Miller said. “It’s hard to imagine that that’s really what democracy should really be about. It means that members of Congress have to spend their time in a little room with a phone, calling up lobbyists and asking them to contribute from their PACs, then rushing to the floor to vote on a lot of issues that very few members have had time to think about and certainly not to shape in any important way.” (For good reason, Miller was a sponsor of legislation to create a public-financing option for qualifying Congressional candidates.)

Now here’s the excerpt from the NY Times story:

Representative Andy Barr, a Republican from Kentucky with little experience in the intricacies of Wall Street, was among the lucky House freshmen to secure a seat on the powerful Financial Services Committee. Now, half a year into his first term, he has emerged as a telling example of why the panel is sometimes called “the cash committee” — a place, critics say, where there are big incentives for freshmen to do special favors for the industry. Mr. Barr, 40, a first-time elected official, has raised nearly as much money this year from political action committees run by major banks, credit unions and insurance companies as longtime lawmakers like Speaker John A. Boehner and other party leaders.

One industry lobbyist, who asked not to be named because client matters are supposed to be confidential, said his political action committee was sizing up all of the Financial Services Committee freshmen as it tried to determine who could best help deliver on the industry’s agenda. “It is almost like investing in a first-round draft pick for the N.B.A. or N.F.L.,” the lobbyist said. “There is potential there. So we make an investment, and we are hopeful that investment produces a return.”

Brad Miller, a North Carolina Democrat who served on the Financial Services Committee until January, when he left Congress, said the intense focus on fund-raising by freshman lawmakers like Mr. Barr is a potent sign of the harmful way that money distorts priorities in Washington, for both Republicans and Democrats. “Freshmen are pushed and pushed and pushed to raise money — it’s how they are judged by the leadership and the political establishment in Washington,” said Mr. Miller, who added that he felt the same pressure when he joined the Financial Services Committee in 2003 as a freshman. “It’s only natural that it has got to be on your mind that a vote one way or other is going to affect the ability to raise money.”

Category: Political News

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