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Guest MINDSETTER™ Patrick Barron: Defining the Machine

Friday, July 27, 2012


For two years the House of Representatives didn’t pass a budget. The United States Senate hasn’t passed a budget in over three years.

In 2008, then candidate Barak Obama campaigned that Washington DC is dysfunctional, broken, out of touch and ineffective. President Obama again is blaming all failures on the inability of Congress to take effective action on issues ranging from immigration, to taxes to job development.

So why in February does such a gridlocked, out of touch and dysfunctional House of Representatives pass a bill 417-2. The Senate passes the same bill in March by a vote of 96-3.

How is it a gridlocked Congress with congressional approval ratings in the teens pass something so overwhelmingly? Because the bill will not be effective, that’s why.

The bill is the STOCK act sponsored by Scott Brown. It is meant to ban “insider trading” and members of Washington’s political circle from profiting on knowledge gained through their positions. Largely this bill is ineffective, unenforceable and will do nothing to change the culture in Washington. Hence the overwhelming bi-partisan support.

Peter Schweizer, author of the book Throw Them All Out identified the issue of insider trading within Congress. He is ultimately responsible for Scott Brown’s enlightened awareness after Brown saw the 60 Minutes piece featuring the issue. Peter’s initial reaction of the STOCK act was it is useless and unenforceable.

Negative Ad Pledge Ineffective

Keeping to a local level Scott Brown and Liz, the Cherokee, Warren have signed a pledge to suffer great and deterring punishment if outside parties run negative ads towards the other. Remember this is the most polarized, gridlocked Congress in history yet a Democrat and Republican are showing a “historical” moment of cooperation to stop the practice of negative campaigning.

Once again bi-partisan means ineffective and inconsequential regulation. For a negative ad that’s run against one, the other person will buy the ad for half the price it would have cost them to run the ad themselves. They’ll pay their punishment from other people’s money; their campaign accounts. Think about this. An ad attacking my opponent for half price and someone else pays for it? This is historic? They’re both good candidates for Washington DC.

The reality is the process within Washington DC is corrupted. Congress is gridlocked and unable to pass any effective middle of the road legislation to help the majority of Americans. They are gridlocked because every member of Congress, especially the House of Representatives is beholden to their party not those who elect them.

There are two primary ways to get ahead in Congress. Show devotion to party leadership by supporting and promoting the leadership’s agenda and money.

The House Ethics Manual Code of Ethics for Government Service states: Never accept favors or benefits that might be construed as influencing the performance of government duties. Yet every member of Congress violates this on an almost daily basis.

Party Dues

This is evident in what is called the party or member dues process. This is where every member of Congress is assigned a fee to belong to the party. This starts at $100,000 for incoming freshmen. If the member wants higher level committee assignments they are assessed higher fees. It is publicly reported congressional members have to pay the party $500,000 to millions of dollars for committee chairs depending on the committee.

In a 2010 debate while challenging the issue of party or member dues Congressman Jim McGovern was reluctant to answer why his member dues would be $150,000 more than an incoming freshman. When pressed ultimately he responded forcefully, “Because I can get it” and then he quickly offered a better answer.

The congressional pay to play issue although public is not something any member of Congress wants to talk about. Most new candidates aren’t even aware of it until they get the bill.

To help them pay the bill incoming freshmen members will be told by the party leadership who to raise this money from. Now the member is in debt to the party and the same donors the party’s in debt to, reinforcing partisanship gridlock.

Congressional Fundraising

They have a call center within the RNC and DNC where the member can schedule their call time and go play the role of telemarketer instead of United State Representative. Some report 30-70% of a member's time is spent fundraising.

Thirty to seventy percent of the money a congressional member raises they then give back to the party or other members of Congress. They buy committee assignments. They buy their name as sponsors on bills which may help them get elected. They buy movement or lack of movement on bills in committees. Congress is in debt and it’s not to those who elect them.

The Bipartisan Congressional Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA) also known as McCain Feingold Act was meant to ban soft money from flowing to the parties. So instead the parties also in bipartisan fashion allowed unlimited transferring of funds from congressional members to their party.

In 2002 before the BCRA was enacted only three of the top twenty contributors donating to the NRCC were members of Congress. In 2004 post BCRA the top twenty contributors to the NRCC were all members of Congress. For Democrats in 2002 only one of the top twenty contributors was a member of Congress, in 2004 all top twenty donors were members of Congress.

To the American people the parties, again in bipartisan fashion, were proud they were regulating themselves. The realty is they had a solution making the legislation ineffective before the regulation passed.

Congress Can't Even Regulate Itself 

Another example of bipartisan political deception is found in the house ethics manual. It is illegal to be fundraising or soliciting donations anywhere in house offices, rooms or buildings. In the House Ethics Manual there are pages of rules regarding this issue but one exception is found on the bottom of page 145. This exception states the rules “do not prohibit Members from soliciting (or receiving) campaign or political contributions from other Members in the house buildings.”

This means when Congressman John Tierney goes to Congressman Jim McGovern’s office to discuss a bill, Jim McGovern at the very same time can ask and have John Tierney donate to him.

The process in Washington DC is designed to fail every day Americans who are unhappy out of work and frightened for their futures. It’s about time members of Congress and candidates step up and refuse to participate in their party leaderships exploitative and deceptive practices. They are supposed to work for us.

For more information regarding the process corrupting Congress and solutions please visit:  Definingthemachine.com.

Patrick Barron is a former Independent Candidate for Congress and was the only candidate willing to take on the issue of money and Washington dysfunction as the priority in order to then take on all other issues. He created Defining the Machine to explain Washington's corrupted system and the Congressional Independence Pledge to fix it. Pat currently works for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health.


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