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“A Perfect Cauldron Of Corruption”: Campaign Finance Will Have To Be Addressed…Someday

When the Federal Elections Commission chair says that her department is “worse than dysfunctional,” that there will not be any enforcement of the rules, and other commissioners say that no one obeys the few rules that are left, it seems that should raise more than a few alarm bells, no?

The chairwoman of the Federal Election Commission says she’s largely given up hope of reining in abuses in raising and spending money in the 2016 presidential campaign and calls the agency she oversees “worse than dysfunctional….”

Ravel said she plans on concentrating on getting information out publicly, rather than continuing what she sees as a futile attempt to take action against major violations, the Times reported in a story posted to its website Saturday night. She said she was resigned to the fact that “there is not going to be any real enforcement” in the coming election, the newspaper reported.

“The likelihood of the laws being enforced is slim,” said Ravel, a Democrat. “I never want to give up, but I’m not under any illusions. People think the FEC is dysfunctional. It’s worse than dysfunctional.”

With more dark money than ever flowing into presidential contests and with SuperPAC-holding billionaires openly staging their own private primaries, the American campaign finance system has moved from tragedy to farce.

Political scientists like to argue that after a certain point the extra money doesn’t actually affect outcomes that much–and they’re likely right. But what they overlook is the fact that politicians can’t assume this is true and don’t want to be outspent in their campaigns.

The biggest problem with outrageous amounts of money in elections isn’t so much that the money will necessarily sway elections, as that whoever gets elected will be too afraid to act against the bidding of those moneyed interests once they hold office, or feel like they owe favors to the interests that funded them. Add to that the fact that it’s increasingly impossible for the public to know where the money even comes from, and it’s a perfect cauldron of corruption without even necessarily influencing who actually wins at the ballot box.

This will ultimately have to be addressed for any real progress on core economic issues to be made. Maybe not now, but someday soon.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 3, 2015

May 4, 2015 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Democracy, Federal Election Commission | , , , , | 2 Comments

“What A Gig, And At Your Expense”: Aaron Schock Still Eligible To Collect Taxpayer-Funded Pension

Rep. Aaron Schock, who announced his resignation today under suspicion of misusing public money, will be eligible for more of it in retirement.

Schock, a Republican from Illinois, could eventually collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded retirement benefits, depending on how long he lives.

Starting at age 62, he will be eligible for just under $18,500 annually, according to estimates by the National Taxpayers Union, a conservative nonprofit organization.

Douglas Kellogg, a spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union, added that members of Congress are also eligible for a 401(k)-style plan, but it’s unknown whether Schock has chosen to participate in it.

According to a June report from the Congressional Research Service, members of Congress who have completed at least five years of service are eligible for taxpayer-funded pensions beginning at age 62.

The amount of a former congressional member’s pension varies, but the payout is based on the number of years of service and an average of the member’s three highest years of salary.

Being a former member of Congress carries other perks, too, including access to the House floor.

Schock, known as perhaps the nation’s fittest congressman and who once posed shirtless for Men’s Health, will also still be allowed to use the House gym — he’ll just have to pay a fee.

In recent weeks, Schock has been hit with repeated questions about his spending.

He repaid the government $40,000, money he spent redecorating his office along a theme inspired by “Downton Abbey,” a PBS historical drama, and fielded inquiries about his charter plane use, luxury overseas travel, personal photographer and concert tickets.

Today, Politico reported Schock has been reimbursed for more in mileage than his car had been driven.

“The constant questions over the last six weeks have proven a great distraction that has made it too difficult for me to serve the people of the 18th District with the high standards that they deserve and which I have set for myself,” Schock said in a statement today.

An email to Schock’s spokesman wasn’t immediately returned.

Schock was first elected in 2008. His resignation will abruptly end ongoing congressional ethics investigations into his activities, although federal prosecutors could conceivably pursue the matter. Schock has not been charged with any crime.

The Federal Election Commission could also probe related accusations that Schock misused campaign money.

 

By: Paige Lavender, The Blog, the Huffington Post, March 17, 2015

March 18, 2015 Posted by | Aaron Schock, Congress, Congressional Pensions | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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