Sunday, on Last Week Tonight, John Oliver humorously explored a slimy practice that very few people like to talk about in Washington: Congressional fundraising. The British comedian said that Washington was like “Rod Stewart’s haircut — party in the front, party in the back, frankly too much party and no business anywhere.”
Oliver revealed that members of Congress could spend between 25 and 50 percent of their time in Washington fundraising for re-election, but also to pay astronomical “party dues.” These dues can start at over 100,000 per congressional year. The average salary of a freshman member of Congress is about $ 174,000 annually.
However, lawmakers are given no choice when it comes to fundraising. In one instance, a congresswoman shared a story from when she was a freshman legislator. She said she was pulled out of a very important meeting designed to educate her about her new job, to make phone calls to wealthy donors.
Congress also has to adhere to a general prohibition which states that legislators can’t use public resources, for fundraising. So instead of doing the people’s work in their office on Capitol Hill, Oliver reports that your representative is more likely “working” just a few blocks away making cold calls to rich donors in a tiny cubicle with an “assistant” watching over them.
Legislators say that the building even starts to smell like a locker room from having so many politicians packed into a small building making phone calls hours at a time.
Oliver spoke with retiring Congressman Rep. Steve Isreal (D-NY) who was once the chairman of the Democratic party’s Congressional Campaign Committee. Isreal described how many legislators would focus on making phone calls to donors with large bank accounts and would have to listen to their unique concerns while soliciting donations from them. The retiring congressman said that the American people were the real losers in this deeply entrenched fundraising system.
During his State of the Union address, President Obama jokingly referenced congressional fundraising.
[I]f our existing approach to campaign finance reform can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution — because it’s a problem. And most of you don’t like raising money. I know; I’ve done it.
Oliver’s segment revealed a disturbing and sad truth, the American public basically elects glorified telemarketers who spend thousands of hours each year begging rich people for money so they can afford to can finance their re-election and pay tribute to their pimp (a.k.a the Democratic and Republican parties).
But some people claim that money in politics is just a “SINGLE ISSUE.” Meanwhile, as you read this, your elected official is probably in the process of kissing some millionaire’s ass for cash.
Here’s the full episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
Featured image Screengrab via YouTube.