Whatever You Do, Don’t Read This

2 comments December 31st, 2009at 07:32am Posted by Eli

It’s just too disheartening:

In the fall of 2008, Democrats took the White House and expanded their Congressional majorities as America struggled through a financial collapse wrought by years of deregulation. The public was furious. It seemed as if the banks and institutions that dragged the economy to the brink of disaster — and were subsequently rescued by taxpayer funds — would finally be forced to change their ways.

But it’s not happening. Financial regulation’s long slog through Congress has left it riddled with loopholes, carved out at the request of the same industries that caused the mess in the first place. An outraged American public is proving no match for the mix of corporate money and influence that has been marshaled on behalf of the financial sector.

The banking committee… is known as a “money committee” because joining it makes fundraising, especially from donors with financial interests litigated by the panel, significantly easier.

The Democratic leadership chose to embrace this concept, setting up the committee as an ATM for vulnerable rookies. Eleven freshman representatives from conservative-leaning districts, designated as “frontline” members, have been given precious spots on the committee. They have individually raised an average of $1.09 million for their 2010 campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics; by contrast, the average House member has raised less than half of that amount.


Because the frontline members face the possible end of their careers in November and may be beholden to the whims of powerful donors, the Democrats’ 13-seat advantage on the committee is weaker than it appears. If seven members break with the party on a vote, the GOP wins. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) refers to them as “the unreliable bottom row.” (The second row is little better, populated by the Democrats from red-leaning areas who first took office after the 2006 election.)

In short, by setting up the committee as a place for shaky Democrats from red districts to pad their campaign coffers, leadership made a choice to prioritize fundraising over the passage of strong legislation. “It makes it difficult to corral consensus,” says Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), a subcommittee chairman, of the unwieldy panel.


Sixteen of the committee’s 86 current staffers — including a good chunk of the senior staff — worked as lobbyists before coming to the committee. (And it’s not just Republicans; 12 of the 16 are Democrats.)

“The door doesn’t just revolve once,” says Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.). “They tend to go out and come back and go out again. It really does create a set of financial incentives, whether conscious or not.”

If anything, it gets worse from there.  It’s appalling and more than a little scary just how corrupt and rotten our government has become.

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Democrats,Economy,Politics,Wankers


  • 1. shoephone  |  January 1st, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    I’m glad I DID read this, Eli, because it confirms that a whole lotta other people are feeling the anger and frustration that I feel.

    There is only one antidote to the current government system of pay-to-play, and we all know what it is:

    Public financing of campaigns.

    Get the money out of political campaigns, make it possible for candidates to run on public funding and WIN. It’s already happening in localities around the country, and in Maine and Arizona at both the local and state-races level.

    This is my only remaining reason for political activism. From now on, I will not waste my dollars contributing directly to anyone’s campaign (haven’t done so since 2006, to be completely honest) and will not work for any candidate who does not show unwavering support for a publicly financed campaign system.

    HAPPY NEW YEAR to you and yours, Eli. May we all see hints of sanity and integrity returning.

  • 2. Eli  |  January 1st, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Thanks, shoe. I firmly believe that publicly financed campaigns would be the single most important and valuable reform we could hope for, and also that the state and local reforms are probably our best hope, in that they have the potential to generate a bench of pro-public-financing future senators and representatives.

    Because I’m skeptical that very many of today’s incumbents would be very eager to vote for anything that would level the playing field for their challengers. Of course, there’s no guarantee that beneficiaries of publicly financed campaigns would be much better, but it sure couldn’t hurt…

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