Politics

Culture of Corruption in Congress Encouraged by Legal ‘Pay-to-Play’ Privileges

bill victimes crimes illegal immigrants sanctuary capitol last solution convention congress pay play legal corruptionU.S. senators and representatives can manipulate their elected positions for their own benefit by taking advantage of multiple perks and privileges that constitute an entirely legal “pay-to-play” culture of corruption in Congress, according to a nonprofit government watchdog.

“Did you ever wonder why 97 percent of Congress gets re-elected each election year even though only 17 percent of the American people believe our representatives are doing a good job?” OpenTheBooks.com asks in the introduction to its report released Oct. 9.

A big reason why reelection is all-but-certain for virtually all members of Congress is the legal and regulatory culture that pervades Capitol Hill, as described by the report:

“Members of Congress own investment stock in, are employed by, and receive retirement pensions from federal contractors—to whom billions of taxpayer dollars flow.

“Moreover, members sponsor legislation that affects these contractors. Then, the contractors’ lobbyists advocate for the legislation that helps the member and the contractor. Oftentimes, the contractor’s lobbyist donates campaign cash to the member as well.

“Our audit provides the details on how the game is played … with your tax dollars. We found the top donors to members giving hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign cash and receiving millions—if not billions of dollars—in federal subsidies and contracts.”

The Chicago-based group campaigns to make government spending at all levels easily accessible for and accountable to taxpayers by posting it on the internet.

The report—titled “The Congressional Favor Factory: Legalized Pay-to-Play”—examines how senators and representatives routinely take legal advantage of “federal grants, campaign donations, investments, employment, power and influence” to benefit themselves financially and politically.

Case Studies

Six current and two former members of the House of Representatives are presented as case studies of how the pay-to-play system works, including four Democrats and four Republicans. The case studies are based on spending data from usaspending.com, campaign contribution data from the Federal Election Commission (FEC), and congressional disclosure forms.

The members profiled in the case studies include Democratic Reps. John Larsen of Connecticut, Jim Cooper of Tennessee, Debbie Dingell of Michigan, and Brenda Lawrence, also of Michigan.

The Republicans include Tom Cole of Oklahoma, Cathy McMorris-Rogers of Washington, former member Erik Paulsen of Minnesota, and Kristi Noem, the former representative from South Dakota, who is now that state’s governor.

In Cooper’s case, for example, the Tennessee Democrat worked hard in Congress on behalf of Vanderbilt University, which is located in his district, sponsoring or co-sponsoring 10 bills for which the school lobbied in Congress. Vanderbilt received $2.2 billion in federal grants and $187.3 million in federal contracts between 2014 and 2018.

Cooper’s top group of campaign donors are Vanderbilt executives and employees, who contributed more than $135,000 to his reelection campaigns between 2009 and 2018.

Cooper also received $20,000 to $23,500 annually between 2005 and 2018 from Vanderbilt, for teaching graduate-level MBA courses as an adjunct professor.

Cooper also owns an interest in the Cooper Brothers Land Co., which received more than $108,000 in federal agriculture subsidies between 2009 and 2015.

On the Republican side, Oklahoma’s Cole has been a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee for a decade. The Chickasaw Nation of Native Americans, of which he’s an enrolled member, is headquartered in Cole’s district and employs approximately 10,000 individuals.

The Chickasaw Nation is one of the five “civilized tribes” re-settled from the Southeast region of the U.S. to Oklahoma in the 19th century, and it has long received substantial federal grants as a result of that status.

The nation received more than $700 million federal grants between 2014 and 2017, as well as $434,000 in surplus military equipment from the Department of Defense (DOD).

Chickasaw Nation employees and the organization itself have made nearly $200,000 in campaign contributions during Cole’s congressional tenure, making them his largest single group of donors.

Cole either sponsored or co-sponsored 23 bills on which the Chickasaw Nation lobbied since 2010, and its lobbyists contributed $58,500 to his campaigns.

The report also noted that Cole is a partner in a consulting firm that has been paid $224,000 by his campaign committee since 2002. Cole has received “roughly $320,000 in ‘management fees,” the report said.

“In four of the last nine election cycles (since 2002), Cole’s election opponent didn’t raise a single dollar. Yet, Cole raised $12 million in campaign cash,” according to the report.

Other examples from the eight case studies include:

  • John Larsen’s top campaign donor group was executives and employees of United Technologies Corp. That firm benefited from increased tax breaks in the American Research and Competitiveness Act of 2015, which he co-sponsored.
  • Former Rep. Kristi Noem’s top campaign donor group was executives, employees, and lobbyists for Sanford Health, which received $53 million in federal grants and $17.3 million in federal contracts between 2014 and 2018. As governor, Noem has appointed two Sanford executives to state government positions.
  • Brenda Lawrence has co-sponsored four bills for which General Motors, her fourth-largest campaign donor group, lobbied.
  • Debbie Dingell said in 2018 that she allowed a campaign donor, Marianne Udow-Phillips, with whom the congresswoman serves on a University of Michigan board, help write legislation.
  • Former Rep. Erik Paulsen is a lobbyist for an industry group seeking passage of President Donald Trump’s U.S.–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA). Cargill, the largest company (by revenue) in Paulsen’s home state of Minnesota and his 10th largest campaign donor group, is a key member of the group. Cargill exports grain and other agricultural products.

Removing Conflicts of Interest

“Congress wrote the rules, so oftentimes what is legal is not what is ethical,” OpenTheBooks.com President Adam Andrzejewski told The Epoch Times on Oct. 9.

“You can wash the outside of a cup and the inside still be filthy. It takes an empowered citizenry to stamp out the conflicts of interest.”

Andrzejewski added that “our report sheds new light on many ways members can leverage the nation’s wealth for their own political and personal gain.” Both major political parties bear responsibility, he said.

In addition to informed citizens pressuring their senators and representatives to stop such practices, Andrzejewski said the solution “doesn’t take a piece of legislation. Members should reject accepting campaign donations from federal contractors and their affiliates. That removes the conflict of interest.”


Reprinted with permission from - The Epoch Times - by Mark Tapscott

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reddrop
2 years ago

Born and raised in Connecticut, I watched jobs leave CT for first, the southern states and then, overseas. Factories closing, folks out of work, families under hardship. United Technologies (UT) and Electric Boat (EB) are what is left of a large manufacturing base here in Connecticut. They have steadfastly stayed and are part of who we are in Connecticut These jobs don’t affect me or my family personally as we have jobs in non manufacturing professions But it affects others that live here an my home state in general.
In Connecticut, we take great pride in the contribution EB and UT have made to the defense of out country. I must tell you that there is nothing more thrilling than to see a submarine slowly and silently make it’s way down the Thames River in New London out to the open sea, like a great behemoth, proud and strong, accompanied by Coast Guard tender. Larson, do what he must to keep EB and UT alive and thriving in Connecticut. Thank you for posting my comment.

Rex
2 years ago

Term limits are so vital and needed to end this garbage dumb.

Linda M
2 years ago

I tried to share this on Facebook and was unsuccessful. Wonder why!

Mike B.
2 years ago

Most Americans struggle each day to make ends meet only to see our elected representative become richer with each term in office. If we could get an honest Congress to pass term limits and a law limiting the amounts former Senators and Representatives based on income they may receive from former donors. These people just get richer and richer at the cost to American tax payers and increases in our national debt. If you think such laws can be passed by congress, I have some ocean front property for sale in Oklahoma you may be interested in. The system is broken and the only folks who can fix it won’t.

Tim Dean
2 years ago

Term Limits. Senate 1 term for 10 years, House 1 term for 5 years with an easy method for impeaching incompetent congressmen. All the House members do is run for reelection and grovel for money to finance the effort. Similar with the Senators. If they didn’t have to campaign most of the time for their own benefit they just maybe might think of the country first.

Ed LaPinskas
2 years ago

There are THOSE ‘talking heads’ who are against term limits. But I don’t see any other way to stop this blood sucking culture of “little Gods.”
Just look at all these 5 – 6 – 7 term germs who assail our president for trying to do what is best for our nation. And they all retire multi-millionaires.

VikkiC
2 years ago

Our resolution calls for an Article V Convention of States to make proposals that “limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, impose fiscal restraints, and place term limits on federal officials.” Once two-thirds (34) of the states pass our resolution, the convention will be called.

You can get more information on this at conventionofstates.com

15 states have passed the resolution so far…

VikkiC
2 years ago

It’s going to take a convention of states…you really don’t expect these leeches to vote term limits on themselves, do you?

Diana Erbio
2 years ago

The silence on corruption from longtime members of Congress from BOTH political parties is deafening…? I wonder why ?
Congress wrote the rules, so oftentimes what is legal is not what is ethical,” OpenTheBooks.com President Adam Andrzejewski told The Epoch Times on Oct. 9.

“You can wash the outside of a cup and the inside still be filthy. It takes an empowered citizenry to stamp out the conflicts of interest.”

c.statler
2 years ago

This will go on as long as these people can make it their career to do so.

Juniper
2 years ago

Term Limits!

Jan13
2 years ago

Anyone notice how the “ squirt squad” are already corrupt? 3 of these congressional newbies are in trouble for fraud in one way or another. Just think how bad they will be if they get re-elected.

Brenda Blunt
2 years ago

Time to stop ALL of these benefits! The American citizen deserves more!

Deborah Hendricks
2 years ago

OK. It’s time to put a stop to this. They hold POTUS and all of us to a totally different set of rule. How did we let this happen and what can we do to stop it? They live like royalty, they act like royalty and they expect to be treated like royalty. I am sick of it. The regular citizens of this country rose up and voted for Donald Trump because we were sick of the NORM. They have wasted the last three years, REPUBLICANS and DEMOCRATS chasing ways to destroy our President, our Country and GOD. IT”S TIME PEOPLE!

dino
2 years ago

This is politics in AMERICA at its worse and needs to be stopped,how,i don’t know,but I would guess by any means necessary to get this corruption problem solved.

nancy hennis
2 years ago

I receive requests in mail from Representatives and Senators, some not even from my state
for campaign donations nearly everyday. Now I know that they have a better way to get donations than my
small donation to use for their campaign. Obviously, they pay more attention to the big donors as well.
and their comments.

Drue
2 years ago

Well, this is a no sh__ moment. No wonder we can’t get rid if the leeches that infest the swamp. Term limits will help but a massive overhaul of our legislative branch needs to be done. Why are they any better than the average citizen? Pension and healthcare for life, franking privileges and on and on. No wonder they don’t want to leave. The longer they inhabit the swamp, the richer they become.

Diana
2 years ago

If this is not a Crime it needs to be made a Crime Immediately, it is plan bribery no other word works and that is a CRIME so all those that are doing this need Prosecuted Immediately and retroactive 30 years, these socialists corrupt politicians have to be held Accountable and pay for selling America and the American People out to corporations, foreign companies, and countries, and perverted rich people, all out to destroy America, so their one world order can take over around the world, all slush funds must be closed permanently never allowed again, congresses wages cut made part time so No more retirement, No more healthcare, No more fancy benefits of any kind, this will help in getting good honest God, Country, Freedom Loving, Americans in our government that will uphold Our Constitution as Written even on to Death as our Forefathers did.

Veteran
2 years ago

Anyone surprised?

While lawyers according to a 2015 survey make up around 0.45% of the U.S. population today’s Congress is filled with 35.6% lawyers; what are the odds they will find ways to parse words with semantics and find ways to “legally” defraud the American people of their hard earned money via fine prints and omissions.

As long as we don’t have an Article V Convention of States and outlaw congressional insider trading, lobbyist pay-for-play via campaign contributions in the millions using PACs, straw men entities, PBOs, wine and dine, vacations, flight junkets, “home improvements”, congressmen running, or partnering in real estate and construction companies, and unless we instate term limits, and have regular public audits of all congressmen, and high ranking government bureaucrats and officials we won’t see any change in this “legally” corrupt establishment.

This is especially true since law practice today is based on precedence law “stare decisis”, not constitutional law meaning if a bad judge can get one bad decision based on interpretive semantics on the books it can then be utilized and cited as “precedence” in perpetuity, whereas constitutional law would have to rely on the actual wording and intent of the law. Our law system today, and since about the 1930s has been based upon “stare decisis”, and deliberately avoided constitutional law to further the “progressive” agenda and remove restraints on “fund raising”.

Lorena K Williams
2 years ago

Congress would obviously never do this and a President would have to chose his time wisely to do this by exec order…a law stating Congress CANNOT benefit from their office through what amounts to “insider trading”.

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