Congressman Ken Buck’s ‘Drain the Swamp: How Washington Corruption is Worse Than You Think’ Book

Congressman Ken Buck’s ‘Drain the Swamp: How Washington Corruption is Worse Than You Think’ Book, by Ken Buck. Excerpts.

Pay to play:

Here’s how it works for Republicans. If you want to serve on a committee, you have to raise money for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). The amount varies depending on the committee and role. For example, to serve on a B or C level committee, a GOP House freshman member must raise $220,000 every two years. I paid that amount to the NRCC in my first term in Congress, but now must pay more than double that amount. Veteran members on A committees must raise more than twice that amount—$450,000. That’s right, almost half a million dollars to do what the people elected them to do.

Republican representatives from districts deemed to be at risk by the NRCC get their dues discounted by at least 30 percent. Twelve Republican members were designated in 2015 to be part of this “Patriot” program,5 but other members whose districts were equally at risk, like Rod Blum, were not included in the program, because they did not play the leadership’s game.

As it is, some members of Congress spend at least half their time fundraising to keep their dues paid and campaign coffers full. If you become the chair of a B committee—congratulations—you’re now expected to raise $875,000 a year for the NRCC. Chairing an A committee means you must raise $1.2 million. …

Committee assignments, then, are less about qualifications than they are about cash—or, to put it another way, cash is the chief qualification you need. Aside from his outstanding policy credentials, House Speaker Paul Ryan is certainly well qualified for his position— he raised more than $50 million in 2016.

Playing also pays:

Serving on certain committees can also mean a lot of donations for representatives. A recent review of fundraising patterns over the last two decades revealed that members of some House committees rake in more donor cash than others. The study concluded that getting “on Ways and Means boosts your PAC fundraising levels by $208,315” and “your out-of-state itemized fundraising totals by $233,742. . . .” While joining “Financial Services produces a boost of $101,695 to PAC contributions and a boost of $140,334 to your outof-state contributions. . . . Joining Energy and Commerce yields a statistically significant boost of $72,933 to your PAC contributions.”

It’s easy to see why the three committees mentioned above are all considered to be A committees. Corporate fortunes can be made or lost by legislation that affects their industries. Consequently, generous campaign donations often flow to members of these committees. For example, the financial, real estate, and insurance industries contributed more than $29 million to members of the Financial Services Committee, more than $16 million to members of the Ways and Means, and more than $8 million to members of Energy and Commerce, either through Political Action Committees (PACs) or to individuals. …

Which guarantees that much lobbying degenerates into buying influence:

I am not opposed to lobbyists. Everyone, both individuals and groups, has a right to petition Congress. But when the request is closely tied to donations and results in last-minute legislative perks, the people’s trust in government deteriorates. …

The real partisanship in Washington isn’t between political parties or about political principle; it is within parties, where leaders punish members who don’t play the game. In Congress, the consensus has been, it’s better to sink the nation with debt than rock the boat with reform. If we’re going to drain the swamp, we need to change that.

This could be an important expose. All Western Nations suffer from this malady and it needs to be changed — or else the sclerosis will lead to ever and ever bigger government and cronyism. The US is merely the biggest and most advanced.

hat-tip Scott of the Pacific