I’m taking a break in February. Not from my official duties, but from raising money for my campaign in Washington when Congress is in session and I should be most focused on serving my constituents. You may have heard of Movember. Allow me to introduce Fundraising Free February.
Americans are in near universal agreement that Congress is broken. Sweeping bipartisan policy initiatives have been replaced with negativity and partisanship. Politicians on both sides decry this toxic environment, and many of us even run for office pledging to overcome it. Unfortunately that passion for problem solving often succumbs to the daily grind in Washington.
Members of Congress have always been scheduled down to the minute, running between committee hearings and votes, briefings and mark-ups, and meetings with advocacy groups, foreign officials, lobbyists, and constituents. The problem is that more and more of our time is dedicated to fundraising. Freshmen are expected to be on the phone before they are sworn-in. Frontline Members must raise millions to win re-election, and those in so-called safe districts must pitch in as much as they can while arming themselves against potential primary challengers.
This week marks five years since the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC and it is no coincidence that Congress has been plagued by unprecedented partisanship and dysfunction ever since. That January 2010 decision left every member vulnerable to multimillion dollar smear campaigns by super PACs and sham 501(c)4 groups backed by deep-pocketed special interests and highly ideological, often anonymous donors.
The notion that allowing more big money in our elections could corrupt the democratic process was flatly dismissed by the Supreme Court's 5-4 majority in last year's McCutcheon v. FEC ruling. Yet there are few ways to more accurately describe what is going on. Members of Congress are dedicating more of their time in Washington to fundraising off a tiny sliver of incredibly wealthy individuals whose priorities often differ from those of most voters. Furthermore, the implicit threat of attacks from outside groups ready to target those who compromise only pushes Members toward the extremes of the political spectrum. Doing so may help protect themselves in the next primary or maintain their scorecard grade, but it discourages thoughtful debate on the issues, and erodes the public’s confidence that we are able to compromise on solutions that move our country forward.
In February, Republicans and Democrats come back from their respective retreats enthusiastic about getting things done. If there is any common ground for us to find, we have a far better chance of finding it if we spent a bit more time talking to each other and a bit less talking to donors. I invite all Members to join me for Fundraising Free February - a simple pledge that for the shortest month of the year, we put the permanent campaign on hold when we are in Washington and Congress is in session. We will use that time instead to get to know each other better, build bipartisan relationships, and do the work we were elected to do.
Deutch has represented Congressional districts in southern Florida since 2010.