Trickle-Down Bribery, or, The Butch Cassidy Congress
Lindsay Lewis writes in the Daily Beast that the real corruption in Congress is facilitated by congressional staff whose main goal is to keep their boss and donors happy:
The House of Representatives in the 112th Congress has earned its single digit approval rating with aplomb. Gridlock, brinksmanship, mistrust, and meaningless partisan votes make today’s Congress the most dysfunctional I’ve seen in twenty years working on and around Capitol Hill.
Today, it pays to be an ardent partisan. Both parties now have super PACs—outside political organizations established by the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision—that accept millions in unlimited donations to support candidates. Democrats have House Majority PAC and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has established the Young Guns Action Fund for Republicans. Members may not be able to coordinate their activities with a super PAC, but they sure can raise money for them.
Though a July poll found two-thirds of Americans uncomfortable with unrestricted money in politics, the Supreme Court ruled that this influx of cash will not jeopardize our democratic process. Donors “might have influence or access to elected officials,” reads the Citizen’s United decision, but it “does not mean that those officials are corrupt.”
That interpretation may be technically correct, but it’s clear a majority of Supreme Court Justices have no idea how politics really works. I do. I’ve seen first hand how corruption infiltrates Congress. While Members’ votes are not necessarily for sale, America’s legislative process most certainly is. And the super PAC era is making the situation exponentially worse.
Congressional corruption is facilitated by Hill staff. Members of Congress are in the customer service business. Members must track down lost Social Security checks, listen to complaints in the district, and take feedback on proposed legislation.