Extreme partisanship and corporate money. Those are the two biggest problems four departing Representatives -- 2 Republicans and 2 Democrats -- have with today's political climate. Zach Wamp (R-TN), Chet Edwards (D-Tx), Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) and
December 29, 2010

Extreme partisanship and corporate money. Those are the two biggest problems four departing Representatives -- 2 Republicans and 2 Democrats -- have with today's political climate. Zach Wamp (R-TN), Chet Edwards (D-Tx), Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) and Mike Castle (R-DE), sat down with ABC News last week to talk about their opinion of today's Congress, politics, and the view from Washington, DC.

It wasn't pretty.


Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., who was taken out in his primary by Tea Party favorite Christine O'Donnell, expresed alarm at the division the movement had caused within his own party.

"The Tea Party movement really is quite a bit different than the old Republican conservative movement, " Castle said. "They're more than willing to take out Republicans, call us Republicans in name only, or whatever it may be. It was one thing when you were dealing with Democrats and Republicans. Now you're dealing with divisions within your own party."

Castle, a known centrist, also said that working with the other party -- the Democrats -- once seen as the cornerstone of a functioning democracy, has become a punishable offense.

"I mean, I know I suffered in my primary defeat [because] I had supported some Democratic legislation, supported the president from time to time. And that was treated as a great sin," Castle told ABC News.

Both Democrats looked to the special interest money on Capitol Hill and in campaign finance as one of the reasons for Congress' dysfunction:

Shea-Porter said watching the growing influence of special interest money had been her biggest disappointment, calling it "awful for democracy."

"I think it's strangling us," she said. "They're in the halls of Congress everywhere, and it means, for example, that you sit on a committee and you say something about concern about Chinese influence or something, you don't even know if in the next election, somehow or another, they manage to send some money to some group that now doesn't even have to say where they got it."

Edwards, too:

"In the future, you're going to have to think before you cast a vote against an individual drug company. They can run a $2 million television campaign against you in central Texas or in Delaware, and take you out under the guise of being something they're not," Edwards said. "Congress has to find a solution to that within the limits of the new Supreme Court decision."

Not surprisingly, none of them had anything nice to say about the news media.

Each member made a point to emphasize the bipartisan work they had taken part in during their time in Congress. However, each pointed out that the more cooperative interaction among members doesn't hit the media radar as much as the conflicts.

Shea-Porter said the media focused too much on the negativity in Congress.

"I have listened to people on television say things like, 'Well, everybody's on the take in Washington,' as if that's a given fact. I think it just makes people more cynical about the whole process," Shea-Porter said.

Edwards blamed a misinformed public. "I think people are getting their news from stovepipe sources of information -- where people are basically getting the news they want to hear. Whether it's Fox on the right or MSNBC on the left, it's making it hard for centrist Democrats. It's making it hard to elect centrists, who I think are critical to the functioning of our checks and balances form of democracy."

Castle, who complained that conservative talking heads such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, misrepresented him during his primary campaign, echoed Edwards' complaints, saying, "People are listening to what they want to listen to, and not hearing any other point of view at all. That, I think, is a huge problem affecting politics in America today."

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