The GOP media machine openly questioned whether it was appropriate for President Barack Obama to travel to Los Angeles this week, when his "business" should be on the economy, the implication being that Obama was not capable of multi-tasking. It's an easy mistake, given the previous president could not watch TV and chew pretzels simultaneously. However, American News Project producer Harry Hanbury decided to take a look at the real business of Congress: fundraising. Collecting as many invitations as he could find, Hanbury found no less than two dozen fundraisers taking place over the course of a single day in DC and tried to visit them all:
Fundraising parties seem to be proliferating--possibly as an unintended consequence of the otherwise laudable post-Abramoff reforms of 2007, which banned gifts from lobbyists to members of Congress, restricted the use of corporate jets by members, and curbed junkets like Abramoff's notorious Scottish golfing trip. In his new book, So Damn Much Money, Robert Kaiser quotes the prominent lobbyist Lawrence O'Brien III, who says the latest reforms "have shifted the emphasis over to political fundraising. Now writing checks and raising money is the simplest pathway to completely legal personal face time with members and their senior staff."
It all may be "completely legal," but campaign finance advocates wonder what deals get cut along with all the big checks. After all, just before his sentencing no less an authority than Jack Abramoff reportedly said, "I was participating in a system of legalized bribery. All of it is bribery, every bit of it."
It may take time to dismantle what Kaiser calls "the culture of money, lobbying, and self-dealing that has metastasized over four decades." But a surprising alliance of good government groups, lobbyists, and business leaders believe this is the moment for sweeping campaign finance reform. They are rallying behind bills that would publicly fund races for the House, Senate, and the presidency. That would certainly throw a wet blanket over D.C.'s party circuit. But would it really be so a bad if members of Congress no longer felt compelled to spend a quarter to a third of their time raising campaign cash?
The numbers we're talking about are staggering. Yet, Eric Cantor--so concerned with Obama's ability to talk to Americans and handle the economic crisis--has no problem with his ability to take funds from PACs and supporters and obstruct the economic solutions the Obama administration proposes.
As a final note, think about how much good the $40,000 that Woolsey aide Stephanie Kenny (the only candid person in the video) mentions at the end of the video would benefit the students of Valley Academy High School, many of whom are so impoverished that the only decent meal they get every day is their school lunch.
Is there a better argument for public financing?