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Behind the Scenes Fun of the Day: Complex Rivers of Cash
I often throw around the “completely corrupt” theme somewhat flippantly when talking about our beltway betters and the charade they perform for us while enriching themselves. Unfortunately, as definitive as that simple phrase may be, it really does understate just how much the operations of this Potemkin constitutional republic have been distorted and bastardized into one hell of a joke on us, We the People.
Before I dive in, it is worth noting up front (via my quick, morning internet search) that the current annual salary for both a U.S. Senator and a U.S. Congressman is $174,000. It is also worth noting that all of the quotes to come are from a 2013 book called Extortion – How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Your Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets by Peter Schweizer so it may be somewhat dated. If there has been a major government reform movement since then that I have missed, please accept my apologies and disregard this entire post.
As noted, the fact that there is widespread corruption in our ruling beltway will surprise no one. But it is important to note just how refined and institutionalized the process is…and the magnitudes of cash involved. Lest you are under any impression that your citizen legislators work for their constituents back home:
… The underground money economy of the Permanent Political Class works in hidden ways. When newly elected members of Congress come to Washington, D.C., they often find that they – much to their surprise – are already in debt.
Both Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives have created a largely hidden system of “party dues” that requires members to extract money beyond their own campaign donations to fund their respective parties. – Page 63
So, on day one in office, it is clarified that each congressman actually reports directly to the party leader in the House and the head of the party’s national committee.
It appears that dues are set based on the prestige of the committee seats each wishes to occupy:
… The more powerful their committee assignments, the more money members are expected to extract from the industries they have oversight over or regulate. For a newly elected member of Congress on a weak committee – for example, the Ethics Committee, which is considered the least attractive committee for a variety of reasons – the annual party dues can run around $150,000. And for those on a powerful committee? The sky is the limit. Those in leadership positions or on powerful committees can be expected to raise $600,000 or more as part of the system. – Pages 63-64
Yet another priority for your congressman to answer to that is at least an order of magnitude more “important” and more immediate than the lowly constituent back home. Feeling good about your government yet? (For the record, I looked up a couple of local representatives and it appears that having two committee seats at a time is common. My very limited research varied between one and three.)
SIDE NOTE: The “Ethics Committee” equals “weak committee” construct in that last quote deserved a post of its own. So a newcomer is allowed to have an entry level seat on the committee that judges the ethics of his peers and his advancement beyond that seat relies entirely on those peers and their House leader. Is there any wonder that the term House Ethics Committee (or Senate Ethics Committee, for that matter) is the biggest joke on cocktail circuits for the rich and powerful both here and abroad? (See “Financial Disclosure Forms, Use of” if you doubt that statement in the slightest.) But, I digress.
Well, if you have stuck with me this far, let’s keep digging:
Raising money is what helps an ambitious member of the House rise in the ranks far more than ideas or competence. …
But you get what you pay for. Built into these [committee seat] valuations is the implicit extortion value of the seat. Sitting on the House Financial Services Committee means you can extract lots of money from wealthy financial institutions. But a slot of the Ethics Committee gives you little opportunity for extortion – except perhaps from your fellow members of Congress who are facing ethics investigations. Members of the Ethics Committee can and do receive donations from their colleagues and party leadership! … – Page 65
There it is again. Are you feeling good about the self-policing within the Legislative Branch yet?
Well, I don’t want this to get too long but I cannot help but dig just a little deeper:
Apart from the hidden dues system, there is another major – but also hidden – source of politicians’ funds: each other. Federal laws are very clear: a politician can’t solicit or receive campaign contributions in congressional buildings or in the U.S. Capital. But there is a little-talked about exemption to that rule. … The exemption states that “the rules and standards of conduct enforced by the Standards Committee do not prohibit Members from soliciting (or receiving) campaign or political contributions from other Members in the House buildings (emphasis in the original). It is a huge loophole that makes it possible for members to link their votes to cash. … Members of Congress receiving these funds can even convert them into personal cash in their own pockets! – Page 67
All in the name of good government, I am sure. Given the levels of corruption that they don’t even bother to hide from us anymore, I can only imagine the magnitudes that are still hidden and, given our reliably incurious press, will likely never be known. I suspect that if you are paying attention – and “see the game” just a little bit – the answer is in the headlines right before our eyes. I would bet that the corruption pipeline had a major branch through Ukraine a few years back. Now? Well, pipeline branches are being opened all over the place with the $Trillions being placed from your checkbook. The best way to find out is to know what stocks the Pelosi’s have purchased in the last 90 days.
Good luck with that…and good day.Published in General
Great post. I may have to get that book. To me, this is a kind of keystone in the Arc d’corruption. We all know that Congresscritters don’t get rich on their salaries, that instead they collect influence and payola, along with fortuitous investments in advance of beneficial legal actions (somehow). The functioning described in this post seems how it all gets nailed down and is made to stay nailed down. This cannot be refrmed — every Representative and Senator, under this system, is compromised on Day Two.
Which goes a long way toward explaining Mitch McConnell. I genuinely think he is more comfortable being in the minority where he doesn’t have any responsibility to produce anything concrete yet still enjoys considerable “fundraising” opportunities.
I am OK with the members of Congress buying their way onto committees, but it should be done by number of donors rather than number of dollars. We need to revise the system an any Constitutional way that reduced the power of those with power, including reducing the overall power of the federal government. We need to put the federalism back into the federal government!
One man, one bribe!
Of course, dollars are the whole point of bribes. Otherwise, it would be called “voting”.
More coming on this. Ever wonder why they schedule a vote instead of just voting? Well, it seems that gap established by the schedule sets the Jerry Lewis style telethon fund raising period. And if not enough is raised, the vote is delayed. Again, it is all right there in the headlines (not necessarily the spin as reported) once you know what game is being played.
I was sure this had to have been exaggerated or it was inaccurate somehow. It just seemed so outlandish. So I put the term “party dues for members of US Congress” in a Google search box, and 61 million results came back in 86 seconds. The first story I clicked was this one:
To have to pay to play is appalling. This is wrong on every level and in every way.
The way the infrastructure bill is drafted (the one that has already passed) appears to leave a great deal of discretion in how the money is handed out.
But I guess we can take comfort that the man in charge of the process is a former mayor of New Orleans, a city widely known for its good government and financial probity.
Also, much of the “infrastructure” money is to be doled by by none other than thoroughly Gramscian Mayor Pete, who has an Amazon original biopic coming out.
I should have noted that this is a “general interest” post only. As the condescending go-along-to-get-along-types tell us all the time: better to just conform back into the established two-party…well, um, well, …party. And, actually: “Things really aren’t that bad.” (Can I get an “Amen”?)
Not that I put any emphasis on Likes, but the two comments included in your link were awarded a total of 1 like between them.
I imagine that 300+ comments deep, most had tired of us riff-raff and moved on to more appropriate uses of their “likes.”
When I saw the picture of the ‘bipartisan’ celebration of the infrastructure bill signing, the title that came to mind was ‘pigs at the trough.’
I sit here wishing this informative post had gotten more than the 8 likes it now has.
Spectacular revelations about who gains when we vote for anyone, regardless of whether they have a D or R after their name..
The one Big Money Party gains, that’s who.
Truth is, I post for me. Usually stuff that I come across that is not being addressed by others or that gets under my skin and won’t go away until I type it out…but always with an agenda that has nothing to do with likes and promotion. (No offense to those who need that for some reason or another.) If it gets through in some tiny way to one other member that is quite a bonus. Eight is rather impressive in my book.
Peter Schweizer wrote a couple of books on this but this has been going on from the start.
The building of the railroads
The Daily Machine in Chicago
Clinton Global Initiative
NOTICE: This Member post has been promoted to the Main Feed. Content may have been edited / corrected from the original without attribution by Ricochet.
(Somewhere along the line it seems we – or I – stopped getting notifications about promotions. For what it’s worth, that is/was an important feature to at least one of us…especially is (rare) cases like this when it happens a full week after the original posting.)
At least Tammany Hall helped some recent immigrants through rough patches…and from the building of the railroads, we got…the railroads.
From the other three, not much good.
Pigs at the trough indeed.
I do wonder why citizens of the US accept endemic political corruption (including electoral fraud) where their British, Canadian, Australian etc. cousins would be shocked (and disgusted) if the equivalent thing happened in their systems.
I blame the Democratic Party, obviously.
Thanks for the post. You have raised my respect for Steny Hoyer in a way that his winning 20 straight elections couldn’t. He could tell us in his defense that raising the kind of money he has over 40 years ain’t as easy as it looks, and methinks how could it be?
Simply a huge issue.
It appears that our entire Federal Government is thoroughly corrupt and I fear it goes way, way beyond the simple graft our Congress Critters squeeze out of their offices.
The consequences of this graft may be much, much larger than many of commenters realize. The whole COVID apparatus, much of what the Federal Reserve does, as what do the SEC, FDA, NIH, CDC, FBI, State Dept, EPA, Dept of Interior, Education Dept., Dept. of Labor and of course the Defense Department etc , is a function of their incredibly corrupt influences. Our whole government is incredibly warped way out of whack due to these influences which may cause an existential national calamity of incredible proportions in the not so distant future.
Then there are stories like this one from Fox News”
“An investment firm that counts Hunter Biden among its founders helped a Chinesecompany purchase one of the world’s most lucrative cobalt mines from an American company, according to a report by The New York Times.
Biden established the firm Bohai Harvest RST (BHR) Equity Investment Fund Management Company with two other Americans and some Chinese partners in 2013. The American members controlled 30 percent of the Shanghai-based operation and served on the board.
The company notably completed a deal in 2016 that saw a Congo cobalt and copper mine transfer from American company Freeport-McMoRan to Chinese outfit China Molybdenum for the sum of $2.65 billion.”
This story, which appears to be outright treason, has pretty much been buried in the mainstream press as it appears no one has even commented on it at Ricochet, even though it has been revealed earlier this year that Hunter commingled his checking accounts with the Big Fellow Joe (VP at the time) which essentially makes our Supreme Leader a significant party to this treason. But one has to ask “how many deals like this one are there”?
It’s the nature of the beast. Think of George Washington’s battle to get a little support for the war and Congress’s behavior. It’s one of the reason we moved so much power to the Executive branch. The latter isn’t rotten in that everyone takes bribes, it rotten because it doesn’t have meaningful purpose so creates it around its own interests. The only check is that they have to work with other Washington interests including other bureaucrats. What does it do that needs to be done , let alone, done in Washington? All of the non constitutional bureaucratic efforts are parasitical, superfluous, and growing in size and power.
It is very, very concerning. At the same time this administration seeks to convert the entire ground transportation system to electricity, this deal contributes to making the US more dependent on a key mineral required for such electrification. It is if someone wants to return the US to the situation which existed when we were at the mercy of the OPEC nations.
Don’t think it’s treason, though…treason is very narrowly defined in the constitution, and since we’re not at war with China, I don’t see how it could be classed as an actual enemy. But there may be other charges possible, and certainly the Republicans…and all sane and well-meaning people…should raise this as a major issue.
Also see my post on the mineral requirements for ‘green’ energy: “Green” Energy: Materials-Intensive–And It Matters.
It was ever thus. See, The John Dingell Era I posted a while back. It was a finely tuned racket built around environmental legislation:
Let activist groups insert injurious provisions in large-scope bills. When the affected industries come forward to complain, demand protection money. Ideally, if you can, you then leave the bad provisions in place but add a delay, a grandfather clause, an exemption, or accelerated tax break for those who paid up. Then, every year or two: Nice little protective clause you got there. Be a shame if something happened to it. So the bad legislation is a gift that keeps on giving.
Some of this is inescapable. We need weapons and highways. Who gets that money is not automatically determined. The invention of new reasons to spend money is the real harm.
I read an article years ago by a law professor who opined that we should bribe Congress to focus on doing their work honestly: Give each member a set large amount of discretionary money. Once a year they throw all their wishes in a single pork bill, pass it unanimously and be done with it. A lovely, rather naive assumption that integrity and public interest would then flower. But interesting.
The new woke politics is worse in that wealthy ideologues, so rich they don’t need to steal federal money fund ideologue-politicians who don’t care how much damage they wreak. I would vastly prefer a Congress more attuned to the market. If I can’t have integrity, give me a Congress I can buy and not a Politburo that is immune to both popular will and special interests.
One of my favorite brazen self-aggrandizements was Harry Reid pushing through an authorization of a swap of lousy private land for federal land in Nevada at the behest of a development group that included his sons. After which, he was given an interest in the project. Imagine his shock. You kids! What wonderful surprise! And it was totally ethical because he was not on board while that matter was pending. Much like the Big Guy, Reid got pretty rich on a government salary.
The problem is the Federal Government does too much. If it were solved back almost all our problems go away.