Pay to Play in Congress

I was not aware of this system for leadership in congressional committees.  Shameful.

From naked capitalism:

“Leadership roles on committees was once determined by seniority. University of Massachusetts political scientist Tom Ferguson described how crassly explicit the pricing is, citing the work of Marian Currander:

Under the new rules for the 2008 election cycle, the DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] asked rank-and-file members to contribute $125,000 in dues and to raise an additional $75,000 for the party. Subcommittee chairpersons must contribute $150,000 in dues and raise an additional $100,000. Members who sit on the most powerful committees … must contribute $200,000 and raise an additional $250,000. Subcommittee chairs on power committees and committee chairs of non-power committees must contribute $250,000 and raise $250,000. The five chairs of the power committees must contribute $500,000 and raise an additional $1 million. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Majority Whip James Clyburn, and Democratic Caucus Chair Rahm Emanuel must contribute $800,000 and raise $2.5 million. The four Democrats who serve as part of the extended leadership must contribute $450,000 and raise $500,000, and the nine Chief Deputy Whips must contribute $300,000 and raise $500,000. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi must contribute a staggering $800,000 and raise an additional $25 million.

Ferguson teases out the implications:

Uniquely among legislatures in the developed world, our Congressional parties now post prices for key slots on committees. You want it — you buy it, runs the challenge. They even sell on the installment plan: You want to chair an important committee? That’ll be $200,000 down and the same amount later, through fundraising…..

The whole adds up to something far more sinister than the parts. Big interest groups (think finance or oil or utilities or health care) can control the membership of the committees that write the legislation that regulates them. Outside investors and interest groups also become decisive in resolving leadership struggles within the parties in Congress. You want your man or woman in the leadership? Just send money. Lots of it….

Sadly, some corruption in government may be inevitable, but there’s a huge difference between a system which has some petty pilfering around the margin and one that is being redesigned to stymie anything other than influence-peddaling. And we can already see that the best government money can buy is a crappy product. But the people who’ve succeeded in making Congressional staffers even more susceptible to lobbying have done a masterful job of diverting attention from the real game by playing on class and economic resentment. Nothing like getting the peasants fighting among themselves to keep the nobles safe.”
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