Buck's 'Draining the Swamp' is a primer on Washington corruption
© Greg Nash

Speaking of his new book, “Drain the Swamp: How Washington Corruption Is Worse than You Think,” Congressman Ken Buck (R-Colo.) recently told a reporter for USA Today, “I didn’t go there [Washington, DC] with a lot of friends … And I won’t leave with a lot of friends.” That statement is likely to be half-true – Buck’s book certainly won’t earn him many friends inside the U.S. House of Representatives, but he’ll make a ton of new friends among a citizenry grateful for the education they’ll receive into how Congress really works. 

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And what is it that drives today’s Congress? Money, and the need to raise lots and lots of it.

 

For years, those of us working to influence the Congress have known that money talks. What we learn here for the first time is that fundraising isn’t important just so individual Members of Congress can get themselves reelected, it’s important in the allocation of committee assignments, too. Writes Buck:

Here’s how it works for Republicans. If you want to serve on a committee, you have to raise money for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). The amount varies depending on the committee and role. For example, to serve on a B or C level committee, a GOP House freshman member must raise $220,000 every two years … Veteran members on A committees must raise more than twice that amount  $450,000 … If you become the chair of a B committee – congratulations – you’re now expected to raise $875,000 a year for the NRCC. Chairing an A committee means you must raise $1.2 million.

You read that right. In order to serve on a committee, Members of Congress are required to pay for the privilege, says Buck.

And what if you, as a Member of Congress, decide not to play along? For starters, you won’t be able to use the NRCC call suites that are conveniently located two blocks from the House office buildings, and the leadership will put out the word to the K Street lobbying community that they are not to donate or raise funds for you if they wish to stay in the leadership’s good graces. If you’re particularly rebellious, you’ll be stripped of your committee assignments, and maybe even be challenged in a primary by a leadership-backed candidate. (Remember Kansas Rep. Tim Huelskamp?)

For those of us without access to big corporate or labor union dollars, Buck’s book can be a depressing read. We’re often left scratching our heads, wondering why the House GOP leadership seems to spend more of its time and money fighting its own conservative Members than it does fighting the liberal Democrats they say they oppose.

Midway through, Buck puts his finger on the problem:

Our founders’ default position was to keep power as far from Washington as possible. We can no longer afford to ignore their wisdom. A crippling national debt exists because Washington has too much power. Corruption in the federal government is a direct result of so many people getting comfortable in the stagnant political backwaters beside the Potomac. The concentration of power in D.C. attracts the worst and tempts the best, making it extremely difficult for men and women of character to arise and lead our nation to a healthier place. The best way to drain the swamp in Washington is to remove the incentive for abuse. Swamps exist when water congregates in one place and becomes stagnant over time. Draining the swamp means draining Washington of power. Washington can’t abuse power it does not have.

Having identified the problem (too much power and money and the control that goes with them in Washington) and the solution (remove the incentive for abuse by draining Washington of power), Buck then conveniently offers a legislative agenda as a means to that end, including, among other things, enactment of a balanced budget amendment and the institution of term limits for Members of Congress. Recognizing the virtual certainty of a failure by Congress to enact either of these measures, Buck strongly supports the gathering of a convention under the Constitution’s Article V powers, which allow the states to initiate action to amend the Constitution. 

Tea Party Patriots recently hosted Buck on our weekly leadership call, giving him the opportunity to speak directly to hundreds of our local coordinators all over the country. For those who couldn’t be with us on that call and have the chance to speak with him directly, Buck’s book is the next best thing.

Jenny Beth Martin (@JennyBethM) is co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.