"I think most Americans would be shocked, not surprised but shocked, if they knew how much time a U.S. Senator spends on raising money and how much time we spend talking about raising money and thinking about raising money and planning to raise money and going off on retreats and conjuring up new ideas about raising money." -- Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL).
Walt Minnick, only two months after being elected in 2008, had to start fundraising. To maintain his seat in Congress in the next election, he had to raise about $10,000 to $15,000 a day.
There are phone banks across the street from the Capitol. Phones line the walls where representatives stand elbow to elbow spending two to three hours a day dialing for dollars. Politicians spend anywhere from 30% to 70% of their time fundraising.
These are excerpts from interviews by Alex Blumberg and Andrea Seabrook, producers of the expóse "Take the Money and Run for Office." Listen to it at: thisamericanlife.org / radio-archives/episode /461/take-the-money -and-run-for-office.
When asked for comment, Republican Eric Cantor said he'll pass and Speaker John Boehner said it doesn't seem like a good use of time.
I can't think of a better use of one's time than to expose why Washington is broken. A popular sentiment for fixing Washington is term limits or throwing the bums out. That's no solution. The replacements will just be the new bums. As long as the system requires astronomical sums of money to get elected, nothing will change.
In the 2008 federal elections, less than 1% of Americans contributed 80% of federal campaign contributions. According to Americans for Campaign Reform, the top contributing industry sectors are finance and real estate, lawyers and lobbyists, healthcare, communications and energy and transportation. Contributions from the top five sectors accounted for nearly 50% of the total $2.4 billion in 2008, compared with 10% from ideological/single issue groups and 3% from labor unions.
Surveys show 94% of the time, the candidates with the most money wins an election. Given who contributes most, it shouldn't surprise you that government policies make the rich richer and the middle class poorer. It goes without saying that you dance with the one that brings you to the prom. Washington is broken for the average American but is working just as planned for the major donors, the top 1%.
In January 2010, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Citizens United which allowed unlimited corporate spending on elections through Super PACs. Election spending is expected to reach $9.8 billion in 2012, up 40% from 2008's $7 billion. The ruling also allows donors to remain anonymous. So what's at stake?
University of Kansas tax professor Racquel Alexander and her colleagues calculated that the return on investment for lobbying is 22,000%. This means for every $1 a lobbyist spends, their client companies get $220 from the government.
You may have heard the expression that "the best way to rob a bank is to own one." If not, I recommend you Google it. You'll quickly understand why the richest Americans and companies want to own the government. When it becomes prohibitively expensive to run for office, only the very rich have the means to put candidates in office. When they do, they own them. And when they own them, they own the government. When they own the government they can legally rob it. How is this done?
Consider the 2005 Medicare Part D bill. The bill restricts government from negotiating for lower drug prices. When the issue came up again in 2009, politicians heavily funded by pharmaceutical companies killed it. The consequence is higher cost to seniors and the government. This means higher profits for drug companies.
Oil companies have annual profits upwards of $30 billion yet politicians won't end subsidies to oil companies. The $12 trillion bailouts of the big banks created strange bedfellows. The Tea Party, Democrats and Republicans were united against it, yet they were ignored.
Yup, the politicians were dancing with those who brought them to the prom. In each instance, the top 1% and the industries they run were robbing the government coffers funded by your taxes. This is not a partisan issue.
How do we stop this? A good start is to get money out of politics. An immediate action would be to stop the complete takeover of our government by overturning Citizens United. There are 102 Move to Amend affiliates across the country working on this. Go to movetoamend.org and stop the theft.