On Dealing with Congress – Properly!
The nation has over $22 trillion in long-term debt. We have been engaged in “overseas ventures” (aka “small wars”) continuously for almost 20 years. The Chinese have been stealing our lunch for 40 years while US manufacturing has been “off-shored” to China and elsewhere as a result foolish US policies. Obamacare was foisted on an unsuspecting public, resulting in skyrocketing premiums and loss of long-time general practitioners. And Congress has, in general, fought the implementation of the MAGA agenda for the past two years while spending (wasting) much time “investigating” POTUS.
Congress fiddles; the country burns (apologies to the Emperor Nero and the historian Suetonious). And the only accountability that exists is to the voters although the election decks are stacked against outsider-challengers (over 90% of incumbents win reelection!). Let’s take a trip down memory lane to understand just how unaccountable Congress really is. Let’s start with ABSCAM. Do you recall that scandal?
On February 2, 1980, details of ABSCAM, an FBI operation to uncover political corruption in the government, [were] released to the public. Thirty-one public officials were targeted for investigation, including Representative John Murphy of New York, five other representatives, and Harrison Williams, a senator from New Jersey. In the operation, FBI agents posed as representatives of Abdul Enterprises, Ltd., a fictional business owned by an Arab sheik. Under FBI video surveillance, the agents met with the officials and offered them money or other considerations in exchange for special favors, such as the approval of government contracts for companies in which the sheik had invested.
The rest is here: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/abscam-operation-revealed
How about the House banking scandal in 1992? Congressmen were routinely overdrawing their House bank checking accounts by writing checks to themselves to obtain cash for convenience purposes. Here is a list of the top 22 offenders:
Then there was the House Post Office scandal.
The Congressional Post Office scandal refers to the discovery of corruption among various Congressional Post Office employees and members of the United States House of Representatives, investigated 1991–95, climaxing in House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL) pleading guilty in 1996 to reduced charges of mail fraud. Congressional Postmaster Robert Rota pleaded guilty to three criminal charges, implicating Representatives Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL), Joe Kolter (D-PA) and his then Chief of Staff. They were accused of heading a conspiracy to launder Post Office money through stamps and postal vouchers. Read the rest here.
I have always suspected that this scandal went far beyond those named individuals and was swept under the rug just like most frequently bipartisan congressional scandals.
One of the biggest scandals that continues to gall me has to do with insider trading. Ever wondered why long-serving congressmen retire with personal portfolios worth tens of millions of dollars? Insider trading of stocks is one of many reasons! CBS’s 60 minutes did a good job exposing the insider trading scandal from which the following quotes were taken:
The buying and selling of stock by corporate insiders who have access to non-public information that could affect the stock price can be a criminal offense, just ask hedge fund manager Raj Rajaratnam who recently got 11 years in prison for doing it. But, congressional lawmakers have no corporate responsibilities and have long been considered exempt from insider trading laws, even though they have daily access to non-public information and plenty of opportunities to trade on it. [Peter] Schweizer: We know that during the health care debate people were trading health care stocks. We know that during the financial crisis of 2008 they were getting out of the market before the rest of America really knew what was going on. Read the rest here.
Congress was eventually shamed into passing the Stock Act prohibiting insider trading in 2011 but eventually rolled back portions of the Act to enable the return of the corruption after the 2012 elections.
How about the ongoing abuse of franking privileges? Did you know that congressmen exempted themselves from having to pay postage on all the junk mail they send out to constituents throughout the year? “The average House member uses $30,769 for these mass mailings out of a grand total of $15.5 million, according to office expense reports from Jan. 1, 2016, to Sept. 30, 2017.” This amounts to taxpayer-supported campaign contributions to every incumbent congressman! Does that explain just a LITTLE bit about that 90+% reelection rate for incumbents? What a crock – and at our collective expense, no less!
Here’s a list of other “privileges” and perks enjoyed by our congress-critters:
- The Federal Employees Retirement Program provides individual pension plans to members of Congress. Depending on the member’s age, salary, and number of years in service, the pension benefit can be up to 80% of their final salary (amounting to a lifelong pension benefit of $139,200).
- If a member of Congress dies while in office, their family will receive a payout of $174,000, or a year’s salary.
- A Members’ Representational Allowance provides each member with money for official expenses including personnel, official mailings, and office furnishings. In 2017, the allowance granted each member $944,671.
- For 90 days after they leave office, members have access to “franking” mail, or sending official mail to their constituents.
- Congressional benefits follow members off Capitol Hill as well, including free, reserved parking spots at Washington DC-area airports.
- Members of Congress are able to reserve seats on multiple flights but only pay for the flight they take. Major airlines also have a dedicated Congressional call desk to sort out any issues.
- The Senate Hair Care Services has been in operation since the early 19th Century, providing a variety of grooming services including haircuts and manicures.
- Former members can still enjoy on-site amenities including the House and Senate dining rooms and the gym, which requires a fee to use after retirement.
- Former lawmakers also have continued access to the floor of the chamber where they served as long as they have not become an “agent of foreign principal,” or employed to influence legislation.
And then there are the sex scandals (seemingly zillions of them). Here is a short list of some of the more note-worthy among them:
- Wayne Hays sex-secretary who couldn’t type (1976)
- Fred Richmond pedophilia (1978)
- The Gerry Studds/Dan Crane congressional page scandal (pedophilia) (1983)
- Barney Frank’s homosexual prostitution ring (1989)
- Mark Foley’s “instant sexting” (2006)
- Larry Craig’s lewd conduct in a bathroom (2007)
- John Edward’s extramarital affair wrecked his presidential bid (2008)
- Robert Menendez with underage hookers (2017)
But the topper is that we found out in 2017 that Congress has maintained a slush fund on the taxpayers’ nickel to settle sexual harassment “incidents” for accused congress-critters privately – without any public accountability! Quote: “According to a report from the Office of Compliance, more than $17 million has been paid out in settlements over a period of 20 years — 1997 to 2017. According to the OOC data released Thursday, there have been 268 settlements.”
Then there are the laws from which Congress has exempted itself over the years. Here is a list from a 2013 article:
- Whistleblower Protections
- Subpoenas for Health and Safety Probes
- Keeping Workplace Records
- Prosecution for Retaliating Against Employees
- Posting Notices of Workers’ Rights
- Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Retaliation Training
- The Freedom of Information Act
From time to time, public pressure has resulted in efforts in Congress to pass a constitutional amendment ensuring that all federal laws also apply equally to those in the federal government, but the attempts always manage to fail. (Gee, I wonder why?) The latest failure to pass this was in the 113th Congress.
Finally, the last item on my list is a topic that REALLY gets my goat. As an active national security professional in various capacities these last 45 years, I have lived within the required security clearance regimen that periodically investigates every aspect of my life in order to maintain my clearances. A lot of you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about through your own personal experience. What is astounding to me is that members of Congress are not required to obtain security clearances! Only their staff must apply for and maintain their clearances in order to access classified information. Refer to this article that summarizes the issue.
Do you suppose that congress-critters are even briefed or trained in handling classified information? They apparently are not subject to the same statutes for mishandling classified information as the rest of us are! Well, at least they are required to take a “secrecy oath” since 2004. But I wonder if that oath has ever been enforced on anyone. Perhaps that explains the cavalier attitudes of the likes of Schiff, Swalwell, Tlaib and others regarding leaking classified information from various House committee hearings! I suspect one of the main reasons why Congress has exempted members from security clearance requirements is to avoid the detailed investigations into their private affairs which would likely reveal activity that would be at least embarrassing if not disqualifying.
Folks, we get the government we deserve, as the saying goes. Congress has been getting away with no real accountability for decades – because we’ve let them! People like San Fran Nan are smugly laughing in our faces (check her net worth now compared to when first elected in 1987; is there some Mexican drug cartel money that found its way into her investment portfolio?). And they know they can get away with it – because they have! If you wonder why things have gotten so bad, and why there is so much apparent corruption in DC these days, look no further than the lack of personal accountability in Congress as an important root cause!
What to do? We need to exert maximum pressure on Congress to pass the 28th Amendment which “would not allow Congress to make any laws that apply to American citizens that don’t apply equally to the members of Congress. And it would preclude them from making any laws that apply to themselves, but don’t apply to all U.S. citizens.” No, it’s not an “internet myth,” as the political class and their paid legacy media and “fact-checking” allies have been proclaiming for several years. They fear its direct negative impact on their graft and corruption. It’s time we took our government back from the crooks!
And then we need a 29th Amendment on term limits. Face it, folks; any member of Congress who has been in DC for more than a decade has completely lost touch with his constituents, as well as what life is like “back home.” Their “privileges” make it almost impossible to vote them out. Over time, virtually all become corrupted by the power, money, and addiction to fame (relatively speaking). Politicians have only two jobs: spend our money and get re-elected. EVERYTHING else is done in service of those two jobs – without accountability!
Time for We-The-People to change the rules and take back control of Congress. Time for a forced infusion of some new blood in Congress from outside the political class. We need people in Congress kinda like that guy in the Oval Office, don’t ya think?