If you’re in the political world, no doubt that you’ve attended your share of fundraisers for a politician or a cause. Yleem and I have never liked them. Political fundraisers are the worse. Think about it. You’re in a room with a bunch of people who have paid a lot of money to talk about work. Could be why we rarely, if ever, attend them.
The New York Times published an article today about the many loopholes in federal election law that allows for fancy fundraisers called destination events. By law, you’re not supposed to talk about your particular pet project, but as one unnamed lobbyist told the Times, “It’s a way to get some large chunks of a lawmaker’s time.” To wit, big deal.
According to some people, money has a corrupting influence on the political process. Yet that can true in just about any profession, including the media. Yes, the media. Does the New York Times pay more attention to news items involving advertiser interests? Maybe it does or does not. I have no idea. But in the political arena, most of the criticism is un-founded. There is plenty of disclosure and while there could be more, the system is a lot more transparent than it used to be.
I could write a book, but never will, about how I heard Members of Congress accept donations from folks who they completely disagreed with on policy issues; issues that they would never ever support. If people are that dumb to give money, so be it. My point is that just because you receive a political donation does not mean you are a corrupt person (what these news articles always seem to imply).
Congress has rules for dealing with corruption. Federal law clearly bans it. Members, staff, and lobbyists have gone to jail for breaking them. If you want to learn more what can happen to people in this town when things go wrong, read Into the Sun by Neil Volz. Neil is a good man who strayed and lays it all out. He’s put his life back together again, but the issues he raises in this book still exist and maybe always will. And, to a certain extent, there is not much the law can do about it.
In most cases, Members of Congress could care less who hangs out with them, especially for pay. It will do nothing to sway a Member if the policy equities are not there. But these destination fundraisers are no different from events held in the district. There are different types of events for different groups; and there are events held for no charge (and, yes, there are rules for this as well).
If you think throwing money around is how to get things done in this town you’re, respectfully, in the wrong line of work. You can do a lot by focusing on the issues, offering solutions, and doggedly pressing the matter through official channels, especially if you’re a constituent. Donations not needed.