Phone Calls, Fundraisers, and the Freshman

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Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) is serving his first term in the House after narrowly beating incumbent Rob Simmons in last year's midterms. This profile in the Washington Post shows him adjusting to life on the Hill, learning the ins and outs of fighting for his constituents, and, of course fundraising. And more fundraising. And did we mention the fundraising?

An interesting look at the real work of government overall, the article carries some harsh truths about the primacy of money in politics: if you're not at a fundraiser or making donation calls you're thinking about doing them and worrying about whether you can raise enough.

It's fine to talk about all the time Members of Congress spend dialing for dollars, but Courtney makes it plain: he's a vulnerable Freshman Rep. and his re-election chances hinge on whether he can raise enough money in just a couple short years to keep his job.

No one likes making fundraising calls, Courtney observes. But he is well past being disillusioned, having done it since his political career began in the late '80s with a state legislative race. Even in 2006, as a highly touted congressional candidate trying to reach acquaintances and longtime Democratic donors, his calls seldom resulted in conversations with live human beings. Usually, he spoke to answering machines, leaving hundreds of messages a day, saying each time that he hoped to talk to the listener about a possible contribution. About one call in 100 was returned.

"You could be Abraham Lincoln," he says, "but if you don't have the heart of a telemarketer, you're not going to make it to Congress."