Insider Politics, a Two-Party System, DC Carries On
(L to R) At the White House Correspondents Dinner — Sally Quinn, Ben Bradlee, Harold Evans, Tina Brown
Sally Quinn: In April, at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, my husband, Ben Bradlee, and I found ourselves between the Kardashians and Newt and Callista Gingrich. Heavily made up and smiling for the cameras, the reality TV family and the political couple were swarmed over by the paparazzi, who were screaming and shouting the celebrities’ names to make them look toward the cameras for that million-dollar photograph.
GOP platform: repeal campaign finance laws, allow unlimited dark/offshore money in US politics
The Republican Party Platform: Going the Wrong Direction and Bombing Existing Laws
Via BoingBoing / Cory Doctorow
The newly adopted campaign finance reform section of the GOP platform for the 2016 election calls for “raising or repealing contribution limits” for private individuals and demands an end to “requiring private organizations to publicly disclose their donors to the government,” which means that the identity of PAC financiers will be completely secret, opening up offshore financing of US political candidates; finally, the platform condemns “forced funding of political candidates,” meaning public election financing.
… the 2016 Republican platform takes some of the most extreme positions on money in politics.
And the Republican vision of nearly unlimited money-in-politics, places a bow on top — no public financing of elections that would act to change the rules of the game and deliver reform — pushing back the domination of money in the political arena which polls continue to show most Americans strongly oppose.
The 2016 election cycle and its players continue the dysfuntional politics of the past.
July 7, 2016
The Democrats Ignore the 500-Pound Lobbyist in the Room
As party members meet to approve a new platform, they pay little attention to the industry that’s destroying government and politics.
Via Moyers & Company
In all of the 35 single-spaced pages of the Democratic Party’s platform draft, there is just one mention of lobbying.
(Your editor is recalling the 1992 Democratic Platform hearings that he attended with Governor Jerry Brown and their attempt to elicit from the Democratic Party a commitment in the platform language and pledge by the Clinton campaign (and DNC chair, Ron Brown and DLC reps) to push lobbying reform regulation in the “first 100 days” agenda of a Clinton presidency.
Our argument was that the strong support of the “We the People”/”Take Back America” campaign that Brown had run could be and should brought into the Democratic party. This ‘reaching out’ would ‘re-position’ the Democrats in a populist way and make possible many key legislative initiatives that would be impossible if lobbying reform wasn’t first put in place.
Your editor personally argued this position representing the Brown campaign in a series of meeting leading up to the Democratic Party convention. The Brown campaign was unsuccessful in eliciting any promises or pledges from the Clinton campaign.
Years later the Sanders campaigns has now run another surprisingly successful campaign, rekindling many of the same positions put forward by the Brown ’92 campaign. The voices (left and right, independent and young especially) to push back undue influence buying, bartering, and money-in-politics came back to the forefront this time around.
The Sanders negotiations, unlike the Brown negotiations with the Clinton campaign, are producing a number of populist and progressive changes, but key positions of the Sanders campaign about the need for lobbying reform, campaign finance reform and pushing back against undue influence of money-in-politics are far from achieved — or even seen as top political priorities. There’s no “first 100 days” agenda and there is no list of real reforms that will open the possibility to bring back support of the American people. The unfavorability polling numbers toward Congress hover around 10% and they will stay historically low if politics-as-usual stays the course.
The Democratic party line remains on a path with a goal to out-fundraise and -spend the Republican party at the federal, state and local levels.
The old line about not “unilaterally disarming” continues on as political trench warfare controls politics-of-the-day.
Money-in-politics is the name of game.)
Report: It’s “Darker” and it’s harder to know who’s paying for political ads
Via Associated Press
It’s getting harder to know who is funding political advertising at the state level as more money becomes anonymous or is filtered from one political action committee to another, a new study finds.
In 2014, the last year in which statewide elections were widespread across the country, only 29 cents of every $1 of independent political spending could be tracked easily to its original individual donor, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. The center found that “dark money” and what it calls “gray” money are rising even faster in state elections than in federal races.
“Dark money can outspend all,” said Larry Norden, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s program on democracy.
Dark money comes from nonprofit advocacy groups that spend on political purposes but are not subject to campaign finance disclosures. Its rise is one of the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling.
Secret Spending in the States
Dark money spending — together with a new phenomenon we’ve identified as “gray money” — have surged in state and local elections. This report, the most comprehensive empirical look yet at the impact of secret spending beyond the federal level, finds that fully transparent spending has declined from 76 percent in 2006 to just 29 percent in 2014 in six states where data was available.
PDF – https://www.brennancenter.org/sites/default/files/analysis/Secret_Spending_in_the_States.pdf
More on ‘Dark Money‘ at Wikipedia
Money for the Right, Money for the Left: It’s Covered
Via Salon / June 18
Inside the donor network: Studies unravel the towering influence of money over politics — money for politics on the right & politics on the left, politics in-between & politics all around (so long as you can win, get into office, and deliver the goods, it’s pay-to-play with high expectations of ROI)
When Weathy Contributors Join Forces
“Purchasing Power: The Next Generation of Research on Money and Politics”
Money and Attorneys Make the World Go Round
Author George R.R. Martin once wrote, “Politicians were mostly people who had too little morals and ethics to stay lawyers.”
There’s something to this view of politics as it’s currently practiced in Washington DC —
While comprising 0.4% of the voting age population, there are more lawyers elected to the House than there are representatives from all 24 states west of the Mississippi. Lawyers are even more prevalent in the Senate. In 44 of the past 50 Congresses, lawyer-legislators commanded seat shares large enough to constitute a filibuster proof majority.
Database on Ideology, Money in Politics, and Elections (DIME)
The Database on Ideology, Money in Politics, and Elections (DIME) is intended as a general resource for the study of campaign finance and ideology in American politics. The database was developed as part of the project on Ideology in the Political Marketplace, which is an on-going effort to conduct a comprehensive ideological mapping of political elites, interest groups, and donor…
‘Veto Power? Will Wall St. Say ‘No’ to Warren as VP?’
Via Truthout / by Michael Corcoran — As Democrats aim to “unite the party” in the aftermath of the primary, speculation about Sen. Elizabeth Warren as Hillary Clinton’s choice for vice president has dominated the electoral news cycle.
Powerful Democratic politicians have been discussing this possibility, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who said he “wants Warren for VP.” The Senate’s number two Democrat, Dick Durbin, said Warren would be an “excellent choice.” The Boston Globe has reported that Reid has been assessing contingency plans for Warren’s Senate seat, should she be selected as Clinton’s running mate. This, according to the Globe, is an “indication of the seriousness” with which the Democrats are considering this possibility. This speculation is occurring soon after Warren endorsed Clinton and had a high-profile meeting with her in front of television cameras…
Progressives, however, should take note: Warren, sadly, will probably not be named as Clinton’s running mate. The reason? The Democrats, and Clinton in particular, depend on the financial support of Wall Street. And they have been receiving it in droves.
“Hillary Clinton is consolidating her support among Wall Street donors and other businesses ahead of a general-election battle with Donald Trump, winning more campaign contributions from financial-services executives in the most recent fundraising period than all other candidates combined,” reported The Wall Street Journal.
This is not a new phenomenon. In 2008, Obama got more money from the finance sector than any candidate in history. Wall Street may generally prefer GOP policies, but they also like to be on the side of the winner.
June 9 / Sanders meets with the President and then speaks in DC promising to carry on ‘the political revolution’
- Speaks to the future of the core themes that won 22+ states and over 10 million votes
- Commits to limiting money-in-politics
- Pledges to exert the influence of the campaign within the ‘Democratic Party’, its ‘Platform’, the upcoming Clinton campaign against Trump, and act as best he can to continue to ‘represent the interests’ of all his supporters, especially the young, to ‘keep the revolution alive’
Time Magazine / June 2, 2016
The War Among the Donald Trump Super PACs
Since the dawn of the super PAC era six years ago, thousands of these outside spending groups have been organized to play more or less the same role in political campaigns. They exist to entice donors to write large checks…
Super PACs exist for the purpose of propping up their preferred candidate or trashing the opposition.
Great America PAC isn’t like most other super PACs.
Founded in February to support Donald Trump, the group has spent nearly as much time selling itself as singing Trump’s praises. “Great America PAC is the official Super PAC supporting the election of Donald Trump,” claimed one recent fundraising email. (Headline: “The Only Reputable Super PAC Backing Mr. Trump.”)
Politics of Perception:
Election Season & Time to Support-Reject Political Reform Legislation
Via National Journal / May 25
Money-in-Politics and Ethics
Senate Democrats want to boost the profile of campaign finance reform as the 2016 elections draw closer.
They’re preparing to unveil a wide-ranging package of proposals to overhaul laws governing money in politics and improve government ethics, according to sources on and off Capitol Hill.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, the incoming leader of Senate Democrats, is coordinating the effort through the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, one of the leaders of the effort.
“The purpose is to respond to the public’s frustration about a Congress that is jammed up by special interests and as a result isn’t meeting the needs of the American people,” Whitehouse told National Journal in the Capitol.
The measures are unlikely to advance…
But the election-season effort could help lawmakers tap into voters’ interest on the topic…
It will offer Democrats, who are fighting to win back the Senate majority, a way to put Republicans on the defensive politically over the role of money in politics…
“We believe reform is a very important issue this year,” Schumer said in the Capitol on Wednesday, noting that he meant “reform in general, including campaign finance reform…”
Lawmakers say the specifics of the package are still being worked out, and did not say when it would be unveiled.
In the past, Whitehouse has pushed the Disclose Act, a measure with wide support among Democrats. It’s aimed at cracking down on so-called dark money by forcing outside groups to reveal information about their donors and activities.
Another lawmaker involved in the effort, Sen. Tom Udall, has previously sponsored a measure that would amend the Constitution to overturn the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision and other rulings that have helped to open the floodgates for money in politics.
Udall has also proposed a measure that would replace the Federal Election Commission, which has been hamstrung by internal disputes, with a more effective watchdog…
The effort arrives amid a presidential campaign season that has renewed attention to campaign finance, in large part because a central pillar of the Sanders campaign has been his argument that billionaires and corporations control the political system and unduly influence policymaking.
Sanders and Clinton have both said they would appoint Supreme Court justices who oppose Citizens United, and both support the long-shot idea of a constitutional amendment to overturn the decision.
Both also support an array of other measures to impose new regulations on money in politics, boost disclosure, empower small donors (who have greatly aided Sanders), and expand and strengthen voting rights.
Via the Wall Street Journal / May 15:
Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton is ramping up her fundraising schedule, attending a number of fundraisers this week that cost donors six-figures and up to attend…
The former secretary of state attended a pair of small, intimate gatherings in New York City on Thursday evening that cost donors a minimum of $100,000 to attend, according to a campaign official.
On Wednesday, she attended two $100,000-a-head events in Englewood, N.J., and New York City.
Maureen White and Steven Rattner, two prominent Democratic fundraisers, hosted one of the Thursday fundraisers at their home in Manhattan. Mr. Rattner also was a prominent businessman and served in the Obama administration. The second Thursday event was at the home of Lynn Forester de Rothschild, a prominent New York businesswoman and supporter of Mrs. Clinton and Democratic candidates. On Wednesday, architect Jon Stryker and hedge fund manager Orin Kramer played host.
Six-figure fundraisers are a new frontier in presidential politics, made possible by a 2014 Supreme Court case that tossed a key contribution limit governing how much donors could give across the board in a single election cycle. As a result, campaigns and parties can now fundraise in tandem with each other.
Shakespearean: Exits and entrances…
Profiles-in-Courage from Congressman David Jolly (R-Fla.)
Update: Charlie Crist defeats David Jolly in 13th Congressional District
November 8th / Close race in redrawn House district
An exceptional political figure rises in his party to speak out courageously on two of the biggest issues —
*On April 24th, 2016, “the most successful program in U.S. television history”, 60 Minutes, focused the leadership and political courage of the Congressman David Jolly
*Changing the way politics is conducted in Washington DC
*”Jolly has been a maverick since succeeding the late GOP icon Bill Young…” — Florida Politics, 8/10/2016
In a political climate where ‘establishment’ politics is being opposed in elections across the country and polls indicate more than a supermajority, nearly 80% of Americans, want profound changes in financing of political campaigns, the Congressman spoke out on the issue of money and politics.
The Congressman is knowledgeable about the business of politics. Before becoming a Representative, Representative Jolly worked as Chief of Staff for the longest-serving Congressman in Florida, Bill Young. Having learned politics alongside a Republican who knew the political system inside and out, Bill Young’s successor has the understanding and skill set to make a real difference.
The 2016 presidential election demonstrates deep and broad public opposition to money in politics and Congressman Jolly demonstrates national leadership that speaks to today’s concerns across party lines.
David Jolly also demonstrates the ability to rise to face what others have not yet acknowledged.
*Ability to challenge politics on the big issues — changing to face Florida’s risks and flood exposures due to sea-level rise
*Preparing Florida for impacts of climate change
In a state regarded as most susceptible to rising sea levels, Congressman David Jolly has acted on behalf of his district, addressing flood insurance rates (and acting strongly on this near-term problem) while becoming a voice for all Floridians as he helps form a broad political consensus to carefully consider the science of climate change. Reaching across party lines, the Congressman is speaking to Tampa Bay and all the Florida coastline to rethink business-as-usual and proactively act with foresight.
David Jolly, a political figure well worth watching and listening to…
THEY SAY time is money, and the adage rings especially true for members of Congress: Many of them — according to Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.) — spend almost as much of the workweek fundraising as they do debating laws or helping constituents. Mr. Jolly, with a Democratic colleague, Rep. Rick Nolan (Minn.), has introduced a bill to fix that. Their legislation does not purport to solve all of the country’s fundraising woes, but this is a case in which some change would be better than none.
Mr. Jolly estimates that Senate and House lawmakers spend an average of 30 hours a week at networking events and call centers instead of in the Capitol working for the people they were elected to represent. Under his bill, called the Stop Act, these representatives could not personally solicit campaign contributions — whether or not Congress is in session…
Mr. Jolly, now running for the Senate seat that fellow Republican Marco Rubio has said he will vacate, has taken a pledge to practice what he preaches — and has less than $600,000 in campaign cash to show for it. Maybe that helps explain why the Stop Act has only 10 co-sponsors. Locally, Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) said he would support a gavel-to-gavel ban on fundraising but has not decided whether to support one that applies out of session as well. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) knocked the Stop Act as a distraction from what he considers the real campaign-finance reforms the country needs. House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) agreed.
That’s a false choice. Both Mr. Nolan and Mr. Jolly support other reform efforts, and there is no reason their bill should come at the cost of those — such as proposals to overturn Citizens United, or small-donor-empowerment programs similar to the one proposed by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.). And though the Stop Act would not eliminate big-money fundraising altogether, cutting the candidate out of the conversation would help reduce impropriety: A fundraising plea from the congressman with committee jurisdiction over a constituent’s livelihood carries more pressure than a call from a member of his volunteer committee…
The National Republican Congressional Committee Friday accused “60 Minutes” of broadcasting a piece with “largely false information” and Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.) of spreading lies on the broadcast— the latest salvo in an increasingly bitter Republican-on-Republican fight with one of the largest television networks in the middle.
- David Jolly, 13th District, Pinellas County, Tampa Bay; Succeeded Bill Young, the longest serving Republican member of Congress at the time of his death in 2013
At issue is a “60 Minutes” piece that aired Sunday (April 24th) featuring Congressman Jolly and his proposed “STOP Act,” long-shot legislation that would bar members of Congress from personally soliciting campaign donations.
(Following story courtesy of Politico and NBC/provided in the public interest)
The newsmagazine used a hidden camera to show members of Congress making phone calls to solicit contributions, which is commonplace in both Republican and Democratic campaign headquarters in D.C.
In a letter from the House Republican campaign committee to “60 Minutes” — obtained by POLITICO — NRCC Executive Director Rob Simms charged that Jolly lied in the piece when the congressman claimed he was told at a meeting that he needed to raise $18,000 every day.
“Simply put, this meeting never happened,” Simms writes. “It is a work of fiction. Had the reporter or producer of the story bothered to verify this claim, they would have been told as much.”
Jolly’s office shot back that the meeting did, in fact, happen — and threatened to release details on who issued the fundraising quota if the NRCC wants to go there.
“In response to the NRCC’s broadside to the credibility of Rep. David Jolly, and in response to the Executive Director’s bold assertion that a meeting with party leadership directing Rep. Jolly to raise $18,000 per day did not occur, we can confirm the date was April 3, 2014, the time was 5:30 p.m., the location was the NRCC’s Political Conference Room on the Second Floor,” Jolly’s communications director, Preston Rudie, said in a statement to POLITICO. “Rep. Jolly has intentionally left out names of participants since the beginning of this story, but if the NRCC wishes to escalate their denial, we are happy to provide additional information regarding the meeting.”
The NRCC also took aim in its letter at CBS’ use of hidden cameras to film the campaign arm’s office for the piece.
“Despite being explicitly denied permission to enter our private offices, a CBS producer plainly admits on camera that 60 Minutes intentionally and knowingly trespassed or encouraged another to trespass in our offices to film footage,” Simms writes. “Not since Watergate has the headquarters of a major political party committee been so violated. CBS conspired with an anonymous staffer to enter our offices and obtain unauthorized footage under false pretenses. This is not journalism. This is trespassing.”
The NRCC, led by Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, is conducting an internal investigation to figure out who filmed inside their headquarters. A source involved with the investigation said they believe they will figure it out in the coming weeks.
A representative at “60 Minutes” said the letter hadn’t been received by the show until POLITICO provided it as it sought comment. “Our story speaks for itself,” CBS News spokesperson Kevin Tedesco said later in a statement.
In an online segment accompanying the piece, reporter Norah O’Donnell defended the use of hidden camera footage.
“If lawmakers who are paid by the American taxpayers are spending the majority of their time raising money on the phone,” she said, in what GOP officials called an exaggeration, “I think it’s an important part of the story to see what those offices look like and take our viewers behind the scenes, in this case with a hidden camera.”
“Dialing for Dollars” / 60 Minutes
Are members of Congress becoming telemarketers?
Stop fundraising, start working, says Fla. Rep. David Jolly, who is seeking to ban federal-elected officials from dialing for dollars
- 2016 April 24, 2016
- Correspondent Norah O’Donnell
The following is a script from “Dialing for Dollars” which aired on April 24, 2016. Norah O’Donnell is the correspondent.
The American public has a low opinion of Congress. Only 14 percent think it’s doing a good job. But Congress has excelled in one way. Raising money. Members of Congress raised more than a billion dollars for their 2014 election. And they never stop.
Nearly every day, they spend hours on the phone asking supporters and even total strangers for campaign donations — hours spent away from the jobs they were elected to do. The pressure on candidates to raise money has ratcheted up since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010. That allowed unlimited spending by corporations, unions and individuals in elections. So our attention was caught by a proposal from a Republican congressman that would stop members of Congress from dialing for dollars. Given what it costs to get elected today, it’s either a courageous act, a campaign ploy or political suicide.
± ± ± ±
Florida Republican David Jolly won a special election to Congress in March 2014. Facing a reelection bid that November, he was happy to get a lesson in fundraising from a member of his party’s leadership. But he was surprised by what he learned.
Rep. David Jolly and Norah O’Donnell
Rep. David Jolly: We sat behind closed doors at one of the party headquarter back rooms in front of a white board where the equation was drawn out. You have six months until the election. Break that down to having to raise $2 million in the next six months. And your job, new member of Congress, is to raise $18,000 a day. Your first responsibility is to make sure you hit $18,000 a day.
Norah O’Donnell: Your first responsibility–
Rep. David Jolly: My first responsibility–
Norah O’Donnell: –as a congressman?
Rep. David Jolly: –as a sitting member of Congress.
Norah O’Donnell: How were you supposed to raise $18,000 a day?
Rep. David Jolly: Simply by calling people, cold-calling a list that fundraisers put in front of you, you’re presented with their biography. So please call John. He’s married to Sally. His daughter, Emma, just graduated from high school. They gave $18,000 last year to different candidates. They can give you $1,000 too if you ask them to. And they put you on the phone. And it’s a script.
There are actually scripts for calls. We got our hands on one distributed by the National Republican Congressional Committee to help GOP members invite donors to attend their annual fundraising dinner in March.
NRCC’s “2016 March Dinner Call Diagram”
It has this useful diagram. If the donor answers the phone, the caller should plug the “unique opportunity to come together with House Republican leadership.” If they get turned down, they should remind the donor that “the NRCC did a great deal to help maintain…the majority in 2014.” And if they get a yes, there’s even an instruction for the caller to “pause and let the donor speak.”
It must have worked. That NRCC dinner raised more than $20 million — breaking records. It was attended by members of Congress, major donors and lobbyists, including this man who was not too happy to see our camera crew.
[Man: Ass ****]
But one successful fundraiser does not let Congress members off the hook. The phone calls asking for money never stop.
Rep. David Jolly: The House schedule is actually arranged, in some ways, around fundraising.
Norah O’Donnell: You’re telling me the whole schedule of how work gets done is scheduled around fundraising?
Rep. David Jolly: That’s right. You never see a committee working through lunch because those are your fundraising times. And then in between afternoon votes and evening votes, that’s when you can see Democrats walking down this street, Republicans walking down that street to spend time on the phone making phone calls.
By law, members of Congress cannot make fundraising calls from their offices. So both parties have set up “call centers” just a few blocks away. This is where the Republicans have theirs.
Norah O’Donnell: So can I go in there?
Rep. David Jolly: I don’t think they would let either one of us in here, at this point. Remember I stopped paying my dues.
What Jolly means is that in addition to raising money for their own campaigns, members are supposed to raise thousands of dollars for their parties. That’s their dues. If Republican members don’t pay up, they can’t use the party’s call suites. No photos exist of the inside of either the Democratic or Republican centers. But with the help of a staffer, we were able to get into the Republican center with a hidden camera.
About a dozen tiny offices, equipped with a phone and computer line a corridor. This is where members of Congress sit behind closed doors and plow through lists of donors dialing for dollars. Outside in the main hallway is a big board where the amount each member has raised for the party is posted for all to see and compare.
± ± ± ±
Rep. David Jolly: It is a cult-like boiler room on Capitol Hill where sitting members of Congress, frankly I believe, are compromising the dignity of the office they hold by sitting in these sweatshop phone booths calling people asking them for money. And their only goal is to get $500 or $1,000 or $2,000 out of the person on the other end of the line. It’s shameful. It’s beneath the dignity of the office that our voters in our communities entrust us to serve.
Norah O’Donnell: But you may not have a job if you don’t fundraise.
Rep. David Jolly: I’m willing to take that risk.
A risk because David Jolly has pledged to stop personally asking donors for money. And that’s not all. In February, he introduced a bill called the “Stop Act,” that would ban all federal-elected officials from directly soliciting donations.
Norah O’Donnell: But, congressman, with all due respect, stopping members of Congress from making phone calls is not gonna fix the entire system.
Rep. David Jolly: Certainly not.
Norah O’Donnell: It’s not comprehensive campaign finance reform.
Rep. David Jolly: It is not. This is Congressional reform. It very simply says, “Members of Congress spend too much time raising money and not enough time doing their job. Get back to work. And do your job.”
The Stop Act would still allow members of Congress to attend fundraisers. Others could still ask for donations on their behalf. Republican Congressman Reid Ribble has signed on as a co-sponsor of the Stop Act. After six years in Washington, he’s going home to Wisconsin at the end of this term.
Norah O’Donnell: You’ve spent your life running a commercial roofing company.
Rep. Reid Ribble: Yeah.
Norah O’Donnell: And when you came to Congress and heard how much you have to raise to keep getting re-elected, did you want to quit?
Rep. Reid Ribble: Yeah, I did.
Norah O’Donnell: Are you the only one who feels that way?
Rep. Reid Ribble: No. No. If members would be candid, there’s a lot of frustration centered around it. And some of this is the result of Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that opened up really corporate dollars into the system. And so, if you want to have your own voice, if you want your voice to be heard as opposed to some outside group speaking for you, you better– you better do your job and raise enough money that you can.
After the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, a flood of outside money poured in to Super PACs – political groups which are allowed to spend unlimited dollars on ads to support or attack candidates for office.
Norah O’Donnell: The last few years of Congress have been the most unproductive ever.
Rep. Rick Nolan: Yeah, it’s unbelievable. I didn’t hardly recognize the place when I came back.
Congressman Rick Nolan, a Democrat from Minnesota, is also co-sponsoring the Stop Act. Nolan was first elected to Congress in 1974 but served just six years. He returned in 2013.
Rep. Rick Nolan: It seems like I took a nap and I came back and I say, “Wow, what happened to this place? What’s happened to democracy?” I mean, the Congress of the United States has hardly become a democratic institution anymore.
Norah O’Donnell: Why?
Rep. Rick Nolan: Well, because of all the money in politics, in my judgment.
Norah O’Donnell: What has your party said about how members of Congress should raise money?
Rep. Rick Nolan: Well, both parties have told newly elected members of the Congress that they should spend 30 hours a week in the Republican and Democratic call centers across the street from the Congress, dialing for dollars.
Norah O’Donnell: Thirty hours a week?
Rep. Rick Nolan: Thirty hours is what they tell you you should spend. And it’s discouraging good people from running for public office. I could give you names of people who’ve said, “You know, I’d like to go to Washington and help fix problems, but I don’t want to go to Washington and become a mid-level telemarketer, dialing for dollars, for crying out loud.”
Norah O’Donnell: You’re saying members of Congress are becoming like telemarketers?
Rep. Rick Nolan: Well, 30 hours a week, that’s a lot of telemarketing. Probably more than most telemarketers do.
The Republican House Campaign Committee would not tell us whether it recommends a specific amount of call time. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee claims it currently does not. But in 2013, at an orientation meeting, new Democratic members were shown a model schedule. It was later published by the Huffington Post.
It suggested representatives should spend four hours a day on call time and just two hours a day on the business of Congress – committee meetings and time on the House floor.
The man in charge of the Democratic campaign committee at the time was Congressman Steve Israel, a Democrat from New York.
Norah O’Donnell: That’s more time calling and asking for money than constituent work or floor work in Congress.
Rep. Steve Israel: Very frustrating.
Norah O’Donnell: That’s what your message was–
Rep. Steve Israel: Yes.
Norah O’Donnell: To other lawmakers, “Spend more time raising money than working on your constituents’ needs or being on the floor of the Congress.”
Rep. Steve Israel: Very frustrating. The result of a system that is broken, the result of a system that allows unlimited amounts of money to be spent against you.
Norah O’Donnell: Before Citizens United, about how many hours a day would you have to spend on the phone raising money?
Rep. Steve Israel: I’d have to put in about an hour, maybe an hour and a half, at most, two hours a day into fundraising. And that’s the way it went until 2010, when Citizens United was enacted. At that point, everything changed. And I had to increase that to two, three, sometimes four hours a day, depending on what was happening in the schedule.
Israel revealed he’s spent more than 4,000 hours on the phone soliciting donations. It’s something he won’t miss when he leaves Congress at the end of this term. Still, he doesn’t support the stop act.
Norah O’Donnell: Do you applaud Congressman Jolly for at least trying to do something on this issue?
Rep. Steve Israel: Look, I’m glad that Congressman Jolly is focusing attention on the issue. I’d rather focus solutions on the issue. And if I believe that his bill was really going to be meaningful, was going to take money out of politics, I’d support it in a second. But it really doesn’t. If you asked me on a sca– to– to– make an assessment as to the prospects of passage, one being the president should get ready to sign it and five being it’s dead on arrival, I’d put it at a 15. It’s not going to pass.
[Rep. Jolly on House floor speech, Feb 24, 2016: I urge you while you are here, before retiring and lamenting the amount of time you spend raising money, co-sponsor the Stop Act.]
Despite Jolly’s repeated pleas on the House floor to his colleagues, only six are supporting his bill.
Norah O’Donnell: Why do you just have a handful of supporters for this act?
Rep. David Jolly: I think people are scared to death of their own reelection. There’s a lot of people who will see me coming and break eye contact. They don’t want to talk about it.
Norah O’Donnell: Isn’t this just a convenient way for you to campaign as an outsider?
Rep. David Jolly: Is it politically appealing? Yes. But that doesn’t make it wrong.
Jolly is now running for the Florida Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio. It’s a race that could determine whether Republicans hold onto control of the Senate. We caught up with Jolly at a Blue Jays spring-training game in his Florida district.
Norah O’Donnell: How much is it going to cost to win the Senate seat?
Rep. David Jolly: Boy, some say $100 million. State-wide.
Norah O’Donnell: $100 million–
Rep. David Jolly: That’s right. That’s right.
Norah O’Donnell: So how can you raise that money if you’re not gonna make any phone calls?
Rep. David Jolly: We have a robust campaign team that can make phone calls, that can organize events, that can raise as many resources as we can possibly raise as a campaign team.
At the moment, Jolly’s leading most polls against his Republican primary opponents. But he’s lagging in fundraising. And that makes his pledge to stop asking for donations look like quite a gamble.
Norah O’Donnell: So what happens if you have not raised enough money, and it’s the last week of the campaign, and a Super PAC dumps in millions of dollars that might be distorting your record?
Rep. David Jolly: At the end of the day, if you tell me that the only way to be a United States senator is to raise $100 million in Florida, then I’m not the next United States senator from the state of Florida. And that’s OK. It’s a shame for the system, but it’s fine for me.
The Inside Scoop, What’s Going On
Peeling Back the Curtain by David Jolly
Rep. Nolan: ‘The future of democracy’ depends on stopping ‘dialing for dollars’ / Via Sunlight Foundation
The Stop Act, introduced by Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., currently has eight co-sponsors, five Republicans and three Democrats. The bill would “prohibit individuals holding Federal office from directly soliciting contributions to or on behalf of any political committee.” It’s intended to allow members of Congress to focus on lawmaking rather than raising money.
Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn described the fact that lawmakers dedicate so much time to fundraising rather than lawmaking as “the great scandal of our time.”