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Follow the Doolittle

Aw, it's sad when an ethically-challenged member of Congress can barely muster up the energy to proclaim his questionable innocence. Rep. John Doolittle's date with indictment destiny draws near, and while his feet are currently closest to the fire, he's by no means alone among his congressional brethren when it comes to fearing the FBI's knock on the door, as this New York Times article explains.

Wake Up Call

This guy wasn't much into politics until he started to look into the corrosive influence of money on elections and government. Then he cashed in his savings and made a documentary, Mr. Schneider Goes to Washington, about the dirty underbelly of campaign finance. Check out the site for a preview of the film, background, and clips.

There Goes The Neighborhood

Well, here's one way to keep the Washington, DC housing market booming: lobbyists are buying up Capitol Hill townhouses left and right to maintain quick and easy access to Congress and, most importantly, host nightly fundraisers.

Writes Jeff Birnbaum at the Washington Post:


Equity in this case means "loaded"

Private equity firms and hedge funds are big business. These arrangements have made their owners and contributors billionaires. Washington started to notice and about the same time, these firms also started making sure they were noticed by Washington--through their campaign contributions.


This year donations are soaring--twenty senior managers have given $360,000 to party committees and candidates so far in 2007. This is close to the total $470,000 given in 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.


It's a small world after all

After punching his ticket for the required one year away from Capitol Hill, former House Ways and Mean Chairman, Rep. Bill Thomas, is back in the game. As the chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, Thomas had clout in Congress.


I pledge allegiance to...

whoever's in power?


Roll Call reports today on the unsurprising fact that industries that had given most of their donations to Republicans are starting to switch sides and cozy up with the Democrats. Donations are how these folks buy access and influence and they can do that best with the party in power.


The Criminal Industry

Note to recent college graduates: go into business defending members of Congress. You will make a killing. Young, Stevens, Doolittle, Hayworth, Lewis, Renzi, Mollohan, Jefferson, Weldon...the Justice Deparment has a bone to pick with all of them so they're shelling out hundreds of thousands in legal fees. No such thing as a free lunch, especially when Abramoff and his ilk are buying.

Small Checks, Big Changes

E.J. Dionne heralds the rise of the small donor in today's Washington Post, pointing to the Supreme Court drubbing of campaign finance regulation and Barack Obama's successful online small-donor fundraising efforts as evidence that new methods must be explored to adjust the balance of campaign contribution power.

What Does Money Buy

Shankar Vedatam writes in the "Department of Human Behavior" feature in the Washington Post about what exactly campaign contributions buy you on Capitol Hill: he says it's not a matter of buying votes, but of "cutting in line" as it were when it comes to setting legislative priorities.


Vedatam cites this anecdote to illustrate the distinction:


Historical Notes

Calling the history of reforming campaign finance laws "Sisyphean," Jack Beatty writes in The Atlantic Online on the recent Supreme Court ruling weakening certain provisions of BCRA and how the fight to counter the influence of money on U.S. elections is over 100 years old and nowhere near over.


Teddy Roosevelt got the ball rolling in 1905: