If you remember that movie from 1992, Eddie Murphy played a con man who conned his way into Congress because he shared the name with a recently deceased Congressman from his area. He wanted to go to DC because of the seeming limitless money that flowed from lobbyists to members of Congress. Once in DC, however, he eventually turned the tables on the establishment by pulling off a con to shed the light on the underside of Congress. It seems that, minus the Congressman with a change of heart, we have the same thing going on in Washington DC today.
*Video segment at the above link.
The show, 60 Minutes on CBS, ran a segment last night titled Washington’s open secret: Profitable PACs on how some members of Congress are using their Leadership PACs as a slush fund to finance their personal lives. it seems as though there is no limits on the use of money either. There are several examples given through the segment on the amounts of money spent by Congressmen on their personal lives and things not related to their jobs in Washington DC.
“Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss likes golf, so much so that he spent more than $100,000 the past two years entertaining at some of the finest courses in the world. New York congressman Gregory Meeks prefers football. He spent $35,000 on NFL games. All of this was paid for with political contributions — all in the name of democracy.”
“Back in 2006, North Carolina senator and presidential candidate John Edwards used his leadership PAC to pay his mistress Rielle Hunter $114,000 to make a campaign video.
And Republican Congressman Ander Crenshaw of Florida spent $32,000 hosting a tour of California wineries for a group of contributors from the defense industry, which he has some oversight of.”
“Democratic Congressman Robert Andrews of New Jersey used $16,000 from his leadership PAC “the committee to strengthen America” to fly his family to Scotland, ostensibly to attend the wedding of a friend that he was thinking about hiring as a political consultant.”
Then, there’s the whole “hire a family member” thing.
“Melanie Sloan: While there are anti-nepotism rules that prevent them from hiring their family members on the official staff– they can indeed hire them on the campaign payroll. And do.
Steve Kroft: And they do?
Melanie Sloan: And they do.
Sloan says there are at least 75 members of Congress who have hired members of their family to work on their campaign and paid them with political contributions.”
If this type of stuff were reported about any other country, we would be demanding their leadership reform and open their government to all the people of the country as “our democracy” does. However, when it’s our country that’s guilty of legalized bribery, we hear nothing but crickets.
By not demanding serious campaign finance reform, we’re basically allowing our governance to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. We may as well hold elections on eBay or some other auction website. At least we would have some semblance of knowing who’s buying our government. Add the current case being argued before the Supreme Court, McClutcheon v FEC, and we have the serious potential of blowing the lid off of legalized bribery in our campaigns.
I am one that thinks we should have zero private dollars in our campaign system. Saying such things tend to fall upon deaf ears in certain circles, but there are many who agree. The problem is getting those who benefit from those millions and millions of dollars to self-check and remove that money from their own hands. I think we have a better chance of teaching a grizzly bear how to wipe its ass with toilet tissue after taking a dump than ever seeing that happen, but I will still voice my opposition to our current legalized bribery system.
*Update: It appears that the whole shutdown fiasco has been a financial boom for some politicians. From Rollcall.com:
The Ted Cruz Victory Committee, a joint fundraising committee of the Ted Cruz for Senate committee and his leadership PAC, Jobs Growth and Freedom Fund, reported it had receipts of $797,450 and disbursements of $461,241, leaving $378,697 cash on hand as of Sept. 30.
Update: A spokesperson for Sen. Ted Cruz indicated that, in the third quarter, the combination of Ted Cruz for Senate, Ted Cruz Victory Committee, and the leadership PAC Jobs, Growth & Freedom Fund, raised a combined total (with transfers removed) of $1.19 million.
- Washington’s open secret: Profitable PACs (cbsnews.com)
- DC Pols Using Leadership PACs to Skirt Ethics Reform (breitbart.com)
- Re: Washington’s open secret: Profitable PACs (forum.prisonplanet.com)
- 60 Minutes: Congress Using ‘Slush Funds’ to Bankroll Lavish Lifestyles (breitbart.com)
- South Jersey Congressman Andrews’ PAC Cash Investigation Featured On 60 Minutes (philadelphia.cbslocal.com)
- It’s On Record: Corporations Really Do Directly Bribe & Enrich Politicians (politicaloutcast.com)
- “60 Minutes” report on self-dealing in Congress (pubcit.typepad.com)