The onerous fundraising duties faced by our people in Congress are a real factor in limiting the amount of policy work they can accomplish and the quality of the legislation that comes out of committees. While I am opposed to the floods of special interest money unleashed by the Citizens United v FEC decision that turned our elections into money wars, elections always have been expensive. But the term in the House for elected Representatives is only two years and then they must run again. This makes it necessary to constantly build the war chest for the next election. Because of this money merry-go-round we are not getting full value in terms of thoughtful legislation from our Representatives or even our Senators (who serve for six years).
I have been following the bills and House Resolutions that move through the House of Representatives daily when the House is in session and there is so much that is trivial in this daily work product. It is sometimes difficult to separate the trivial from the more consequential because all votes are given the same sort of weight. Clearly a bill to name a post office takes less time to execute than a budget matter or a bill like the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (which took less time than usual because the opposition party had no power in the 115th Congress). Perhaps if our representatives in both houses of Congress were relieved of some fundraising duties they would have time to pass bills that actually address the needs of the American people.
The people who represent us in Congress have staff people and interns who probably send out all those emails and letters to constituents that arrive daily in our mailboxes, both digital and real. Even so, they have to oversee their reelection campaigns, they have to call big donors and fundraising is time-consuming and often requires a personal touch in terms of events that must be attended and speeches that must be made and hands that must be shaken. Obviously we cannot relieve members of Congress of all of these more hands-on duties. However the Democratic Party can try to find ways to trim the amount of time spent on fundraising by those who are serving in Congress and people who are not in office but are party leaders can take on more of the fundraising. It’s a trade-off. If you want more in terms of quality legislation or policy then some of the tedious repetitive chores must be taken over by others or terms of House Representatives must be for longer than two years (hard to do because it calls for a Constitutional amendment).
John Oliver does a great job of telling us the details of Congressional fundraising although his analogies are often hair-raisingly “blue” (he is on HBO, nothing is forbidden).
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