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Monday, 24 May 2010 06:13

Governing for Reelection: Democratic Leaders Hand Out Committee Seats Based on How Much Money the Big Banks Will Spend on Bribes

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by Meg White 

Hidden at the end of a New York Times article about financial lobbying this Sunday was a fascinating tidbit about life as an elected official. The piece fleshed out the results of a study by the D.C. watchdogs at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (emphasis mine):

The group’s analysis found that the 14 freshmen who serve on the House Financial Services Committee raised 56 percent more in campaign contributions than other freshmen. And most freshmen on the panel, the analysis found, are now in competitive re-election fights.

“It’s definitely not accidental,” said Melanie Sloan, the director of the ethics group. “It appears that Congressional leaders are deliberately placing vulnerable freshmen on the Financial Services Committee to increase their ability to raise money.”

Take Representative John Adler, Democrat of New Jersey. Mr. Adler is a freshman in Congress with no real national profile, yet he has managed to raise more than $2 million for his re-election, more than any other freshman, the analysis found.

That is due in large part, political analysts say, to his spot on the Financial Services Committee. 

You read that right; Democrats are putting people on the financial committee who need money, because that's where all the lobbying action is taking place.

At first the arrangement seemed pretty genius. Take the big banksters' campaign bucks at a swanky fundraiser over the weekend, but then come back to Washington and raise your hand for financial reform. Reelection guaranteed! It's a quick way to try and maintain the influx of Democrats that gave Rep. Nancy Pelosi her speakership in 2006.

It's also a quick way to corrupt brand-new members of Congress. Hey, buddy. Welcome to the Hill. Here's a sack of cash; and don't work too hard on those new regulations, huh?

But more than that, it totally demoralizes the legislative process and demonstrates the slick sickness of Washington. What a crass political calculation to make! Instead of lawmakers sitting on committees because they have a passion, interest or expertise that matches well with said committee's jurisdiction, leaders have chosen them based on how much money lobbyists will probably give them if they're on said committee. That's like choosing your physician based on how much you think Big Pharma is going to bribe them to push meds on you.

This got me thinking about Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), my former representative ("former" because I've since moved, not because she's out of office). I always thought she was on the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection because of her long track record of fiercely defending consumer protection. But who knows now? Maybe she was just placed there to yell at errant CEOs for poisoning the American people because the clips might get her reelected. Did she help found the Out-of-Iraq Caucus just to draw in campaign funds from Halliburton? Is she the Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues because she's a closet misogynist?

OK, I kid. But hopefully you get my point about the ass-backwardsness of the Democratic leadership in this situation.

Call me naive, but I thought people -- at least some people -- went into politics to get things done. This practice makes me realize that lawmakers not only perpetually running for reelection, they're also governing for reelection.