Watch: John Oliver Exposes the Obscene Truth About Congressional Fundraising
Last Week Tonight Host John Oliver dug into the obscene amount of time members of congress spend smiling and dialing to raise money, as opposed to working on legislation that might actually help Americans on Sunday. In the 2014 election cycle, candidates for the house and senate raised a combined $1.7 billion. “That’s more than it cost to buy $230 million tubes of hemorrhoidal cooling gel and it’s somehow even more upsetting," Oliver lamented.
“If I could tell you how many hours we spend with our good colleagues on our side of the issues, talking about raising money, it would be an embarrassment," Senator Dick Durbin (D) Illinois said at an America's Future Now Conference. Oliver thought a stronger adjective was required. "The sheer amount of time politicians spend fundraising is not just embarrassing. It’s horrifying," he said. Some say that members can spend anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of their time fundraising, although former US Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle once estimated that in the two years before an election senators can spend two thirds of their term raising money.
The most obvious form of fundraising is fundraisers - which are so ubiquitous in DC, you could literally spend to whole day attending them. “Some politicians even turn their own personal milestones into fundraising opportunities, like Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen who turned her 30th wedding anniversary into a fundraiser, an event that is almost breathtaking in its sadness," Oliver joked. Ros-Lehtinen charged $5000 a table, so even if three people showed up, the event would have been worth hosting. Those sad little parties are glamorous compared to the thousands of hours politicians spend fundraising over the phone.
Lawmakers have even been called out of hearings to do that call time. The call time takes place in an office a few blocks from the capital, where members sit beside a “minder” who makes sure they don’t take too long on the call. The amount of money the house expects each member to raise ranges from $125,000 to $800,000.
For Senator Chris Murphy, (D) Connecticut, it came down to only calling people who could potentially give at least $1000. “So you gotta imagine that the folks I’m calling are making half a million to a million dollars. And they have fundamentally different problems than everybody else," the Senator explained.
And that is a huge problem," Oliver assessed. "Because it can’t not affect the way you see the world, if you’re only calling donors rich enough that their main concerns are estate taxes or which Belgian Kimono their cat will wear that day.”
Watch Oliver's informative rant: