’60 Minutes’: Fundraising demands turning lawmakers into telemarketers

Courtesy David Jolly
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When Florida Republican David Jolly came to Washington after winning a special election in 2014, he was surprised by what he was told was his No. 1 priority: fundraising.

The House member told “60 Minutes” he sat behind closed doors with party leadership, where he was told he had six months to raise $2 million.

“Your job, new member of Congress, is to raise $18,000 a day. Your first responsibility is to make sure you hit $18,000 a day,” he said he was told.

To do so, he said, members of Congress are given lists of names and scripts. Because members aren’t allowed to fundraise on Capitol grounds, the campaign arms of the parties have setup call bank headquarters near the Capitol, where members can duck in to to spend a few hours on the phone.

Jolly told “60 Minutes” the schedule of Congress is arranged around fundraising — and called the setup “shameful.”

“It’s beneath the dignity of the office that our voters in our communities entrust us to serve.”

Jolly is running for the Florida Senate seat that will be vacated by Marco Rubio and has been told he’ll need to spend $100 million to win. It will be a heavy life, as he’s promised not to make fundraising phone calls. 

He’s also introduced the “STOP” Act, which would ban federal elected officials from directly soliciting donations — though they could still attend fundraisers and have campaign operations work on their behalf.

Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan is co-sponsoring the bill and says things have changed since he first served in Congress in the 1970s.

Since the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC, he said, both parties have told new members they should spend 30 hours a week on calls — and the prospect is keeping people from running for office.

“I could give you names of people who’ve said, ‘You know, I’d like to go to Washington and help fix problems, but I don’t want to go to Washington and become a midlevel telemarketer, dialing for dollars, for cryin’ out loud,” Nolan said.

But the prospects of passage for the bill are low — it only has six co-sponsors and some opponents say it’s a cosmetic fix that has no chance of becoming law. 

The sentiments from Jolly and Nolan echo those of Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), who likewise bemoaned the focus on fundraising on an episode of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” aired earlier this month. 

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