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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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Dean Brittain

Anyone surprised by this must have been hiding in a cave since birth. Two words come to mind: term limits.
Not perfect, but our only defence.
Plus, no government job, no lobbying and no employment with any company that receives more than 49% of it’s gross revenue from government contracts at any level.

Wayne

Drain the swamp! Go Trump Go 2020!

Robert J. White

If you have noticed the biggest Anti-Trump people are the ones getting the most in EXTRAS/BENEIFITS FROM THEIR “POSITION IN GOV’T”. DRAINING THE SUMP WOULD BE BEST EVEN THOUGH IT WILL SMELL TO HIGH HEAVEN.

Stephen Russell

END Pay 2 play.
No revolving door from Senate to lobbyists etc A-Z
See Biden Ukraine, China scandal etc.
END this

SweetLadyMary

In addition to term limits, I would add no retirement benefits, and no continued medical benefits. They also pay into social security. I agree with Dean Britain on the rest of the future employment after serving in Congress. The career politicians are taking advantage of taxpayers. Time to put a stop to it.

Mimi

I have long thought that allowing “lobbying” in D.C. was tantamount to allowing legal bribery of our elected officials. And now we have watchdog groups that are proving it!! Lobbyists should NOT be allowed to use money in any way shape or form, when pleading their case. If they want to “lobby” for a particular group, let them do it verbally, NOT with monetary bribes!!!!! TERM LIMITS, it’s our only hope. I wonder how many members would vote for “verbal lobbying only, and term limits for themselves”? Dreaming, we’re only dreaming!! Drain that swamp President Trump!! Go Trump 2020 and beyond!!

Paul DAscenz

Stop Giving a Blank Check for the Treasury Dept. to Anyone that asks for it. When, President Trump wanted Money to build the wall, The Congress said no!!! Follow the Constitution, when asking for funds on a project!

Shuttle Guy

Can anyone/everyone say TERM LIMITS!!!

Zwad

Makes me sad to be part of this system. If obeying The Almighty is not our country’s focus, we are doomed.

Lloyd 1954

Repeal the 18th amendment and take the money away from the Senate. Then go after the house.

Linda Hutson

We’ve always known this, now we just need to find a way to stop it!

J. FARLEY

THIS PAY TO PLAY WOULD BE GREATLY DIMINISHED WITH TERM LIMITS , BUT IT WON’T HAPPEN

Rick J.

Helps one realize why DC is called the swamp…fetid,rotten with a large dash greed and graft.
Term limits and strict rules and limits on lobbying would help. Usually tho, greed finds away.

Josephine pooley

Corruption runs deep!

Paul W

Pay-to-play=the demoncRAT way. § 2635.702 Use of public office for private gain. They’re criminals…PROSECUTE THEM!!!

Jack

How do you stop it? Most of the people just don’t care.

Deborah Hendricks

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!

Ed J

Our beloved Congress — legislating the best laws that money can buy! NO surprise here.

Rexford O Ames

Does anyone think that this can be stopped. There are so many contractors paid by our congress, Imagine if you will. The Pentagon, that big huge building that houses all of our military and intelligence services. Now think. Congress holds the purse for all of those organizations. The Services have know for a long, long time about the Abuse and theft of many of those organizations and the protection that congress gives them. They will hire what congress approves and cannot fire anyone! Do you really believe that the 21 Trillion dollar Debt is real. Gee, I wonder why and has it ever occurred to you Liberal Thinkers, or should I say Noise makers. That you know what and who is paying you? ANTIFA anyone. They don’t do that without a lot of cash and political influence influencing them. Nothing like having Paid bullies in your neck of the Country.… Read more »

JohnH

“Art of the Deal” in DC