The Hill opinion: Ending Congress’s Telemarketing Culture
The American people are sending a clear and resounding message in this 2016 election cycle: We absolutely must change the way we do politics in America if our great nation is going to survive. Presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle have sought to shift the conversation toward reform, echoing the American people’s grievance that their government is no longer working for them or their families.
Our country is starving for solutions. The threat of ISIS is growing; military veterans are struggling to get the health care they need and deserve; students, retirees, and working men and women are struggling financially; and our national debt is unremitting. These crises all have one common denominator and it is one of Washington’s dirtiest secrets: Congress simply isn’t spending enough time trying to fix them.
Instead, many Republicans and Democrats in Congress are across the street from the U.S. Capitol building, at their respective party’s campaign headquarters, attempting to fulfill the weekly fundraising demands set for them by their party leaders. That means spending upward of 20-30 hours per week on the phone asking for money.
That’s right. Many of your elected representatives are spending more time on the phone asking for money than a professional telemarketer.
That is why we have introduced the “Stop Act,” a four page bill that bans federal officeholders from personally asking you for money. It’s that simple. We cannot have a part-time Congress in a full-time world. Members of Congress must go to Washington and go to work on the people’s business.
Citizens would still be allowed to contribute to campaigns of their choosing. Members of Congress would still be allowed to attend fundraisers and speak to donors. But under no circumstance would they be allowed to personally ask people for campaign donations. It’s a simple fix that would give our colleagues breathing room, allowing them to leave the campaign call centers and return to their committee hearings, constituent meetings, and policy briefings to do the job they were elected to do.
Our current system is destroying the American people’s confidence in our government, discouraging good people from running for public office, and perverting public policy. Staying the course is not an option. This Congress has been the most unproductive and ineffective in our nation’s modern history. The Stop Act won’t fix every problem facing our campaigns and elections. But it is a critical step forward in the battle for transparency and against impropriety. Passing the Stop Act and passing other campaign finance reforms are not mutually exclusive. We both acknowledge and understand the immense pressure that stems from the hundreds of millions of dollars in secret money unleashed after the Citizens United decision. Congress must address this critical issue. But that won’t happen if Members of Congress are not able to go to Washington and go to work.
We don’t intend to impugn the character of our colleagues. From conversations with them, it’s quite clear that most would prefer not to spend their time in a call center asking strangers for money. The Stop Act will give us breathing room so fundraising can be left to campaign volunteers and elected officials can do the people’s work.
This battle has been won many times on the state level. The rule already applies to judicial elections in 30 states across the country and 29 state legislatures have similar restrictions on campaign contributions. This is a battle we can win on the federal level too.
The American people must continue to demand action from their elected officials and candidates down the ballot. That is how the Stop Act will become law and return lawmakers’ focus to the job they were elected to do as representatives of the people.