The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

 (202) 588-1000

Fundraiser for Incoming Lawmakers Gives Freshmen An Inappropriate Introduction to the Influence of Money in Politics

Statement of Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen


The incoming Democratic freshmen of the House of Representatives are
about to get their first lesson in good old boy politics.
Unfortunately, the example being set by Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.)
and Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) is exactly the kind of initiation these new
members don't need.

Dingell and Rahall are hosting a Washington, D.C., fundraiser
Wednesday to help the newly elected Democrats retire their campaign
debt. According to the invitation, political action committees (PACs)
are encouraged to contribute $20,000 apiece, while individuals are
asked to consider chipping in $10,000 each.

What's wrong with this picture? Before they're even sworn in, these
23 lawmakers will be exposed to the quid pro quo relationship between
elected officials and their wealthy benefactors - lobbyists and
corporate power brokers. It's a potentially corrupting cycle of
influence-peddling that could largely be done away with if we had
public financing of congressional elections.

As for Dingell, who is facing a serious challenge from Rep. Henry
Waxman (D-Calif.) for his powerful chairmanship of the House Energy and
Commerce Committee, he should be aware how suspect it looks for him to
be currying favor with incoming legislators the same week the freshmen
and sitting members will decide his fate. We should also note that like
many of their fellow members of Congress, Waxman and Dingell
contributed to the election campaigns of the new lawmakers, though,
according to Congressional Quarterly, Waxman gave more through his LA
PAC than Dingell did through his Wolverine PAC.

If voters were clear about anything this past election, it was that
they are tired of Washinton.'s business-as-usual style of politics.
It's time for a change. These freshmen should graciously decline
Dingell and Rahall's hospitality and, instead, pledge to sign on to
public financing legislation.

Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people - not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country.

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