Put Congress Back to Work

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This op-ed by Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT) on brutal chase for campaign money that eats up his time as a legislator ties together many of the themes his colleagues have touched on about the harm such excessive fundraising causes and makes a strong argument in favor of full public financing of congressional campaigns.

Representatives run for re-election every two years, and with campaign costs skyrocketing that means a daily devotion to the work of raising money -- at a cost to both the business of legislating, and to forming working relationships with fellow legislators:


On top of all of the official duties of a congressman, I and my colleagues find that more and more of our time is spent on our re-elections, largely raising money. On any given day, the foot traffic to and from the national Republican and Democratic campaign offices is constant, and the conditions under which we labor are pretty depressing. At the Democratic offices, I sit in a room with cubicles, surrounded by freshmen and veteran legislators, feeling more like a telemarketer than a member of Congress.

[. . .]

Further, endless evening fundraising commitments mean that, when votes end, members rush to seek campaign contributions rather than grab a burger or beer with a colleague from across the aisle. This pressure to spend rare free moments fundraising means that there is less time to get to know your colleagues. As a result, partisan sniping comes much easier because you often don't know the person you're sniping at.

Murphy argues that whether or not campaign contributions do buy favors from politicians, the irrevocable perception is that they do -- and that harms public trust in government, and civic engagement.

Hailing Connecticut's recent passage of a Clean Elections public financing system for state legislative offices, Murphy hopes the increased attention to campaign finance concerns in Congress, combined with new voices in Congress calling out for change will propel efforts to publicly finance congressional campaigns and let members of Congress do the jobs they were elected to do.