Life imitating art in Washington DC

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.

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50157523n

*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.”

Also…

“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.”

Followed by…

“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:

A fundraising committee of freshman Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, reported it had raised almost $800,000 during the third quarter of 2013.

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.

[…]

The committee transferred net proceeds of $329,198 to Ted Cruz for Senate, and $70,127 to the Jobs Growth and Freedom Fund.

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.

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “Life imitating art in Washington DC

  1. IMO, insofar as there are no consequences for this sort of financial jiggery-pokery, I anticipate that it will continue unabated. Some practicioners may tsk-tsk at it or make perfunctory declarations about the evils of TEH MUNEEZ in politics; then they will turn around, be more careful about getting caught at it and then go right back to doing it. No pol’s going to quit until voters start handing them pink slips for doing it.

    Like

    • Unless the people can put forth some kind of popular vote proposition, there won’t be any consequences IMO. The pols are of the mindset that money = speech, and they’ve got justices on the Supreme Court and a significant following of the general public believing that as well.

      I’m amazed at what the American voters tolerate here at home vs what we point our fingers at others and make the accusation that they need to clean up their systems.

      Like

  2. As long as the people benefiting from the rules are the same people who make the rules, don’t expect any change,

    Not sure if it’s still the case but people used to run for the Georgia Legislature, unopposed, year after year and still rake in the campaign donations. When they decided to finally pack it in, whatever money was left in the war chest was theirs to keep. I’m not 100% sure but I think it still works that way. Somebody can correct me if it’s been changed.

    And in my opinion, for what little it is worth, if money is speech, then so is bullshit. (Hope that doesn’t violate the rules of your blog. If it does, feel free to sanitize)

    Like

    • Not sure about Georgia’s rules, but that seems like the norm for all of politics. When they quit running, they simply create some new “fund” and roll all that money over somehow.

      At this point, I don’t have any rules, so there’s no violation. I believe in the First, and I’m not one to censor anybody’s thoughts or speech.

      Like

      • FWIW, I don’t think of corporations as “people,” and I think it was a dark day for our country when the SCOTUS decided that they were. Frankly, if corporations are supposed to be people, then each corporation should have the same contribution limits as any other citizen. ‘Oh, you’re Microsoft? Sorry, you can’t contribute more than $2000 to that campaign. Sucks to be you.’

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s