In a recent story on Morning Edition, NPR explored a side of the legislative process we don’t often see. Behind the scenes, in their off hours, US lawmakers go across the street from their congressional offices to private buildings, and they spend hours making calls, fundraising for the next election.
That’s right: in effect, most US senators and representatives spend their evenings working as telemarketers. It’s not rare to spend 3-4 hours a day calling and asking for contributions.
Why? According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, 9 in 10 House races and 8 in 10 Senate races are decided solely on the basis of which candidate can raise the most money.
This is incredibly disturbing on a number of levels. For one: if our elected officials are spending so much of their time simply trying to raise money, how much energy do they have to devote to real issues? It’s hard to imagine that we have particularly effective leadership in place when making calls asking for money is more important than making laws.
And how pathetic is it that the candidate with the most money wins almost every election? What does this say about the American public? Are we unable to effectively pick candidates based on their policy positions? Are people more likely to simply vote for whichever name they’ve seen more frequently on TV?
NPR is running a series of programs on the topic – last weekend an episode of This American Life was dedicated to exploring the fundraising process in detail, from fundraising events to Super PACs to campaign finance reform. You can listen to it online on the TAL website.
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