Some members of Congress are getting sick of it. “I don’t think I can spend another day in another call room making another call begging for money,” said Representative Steve Israel, Democrat of New York, explaining his retirement from Congress after eight terms. Last month Mr. Israel also wrote an article for the op-ed page of The New York Times in which he recalled “Lesson No. 1” from his congressional orientation sessions: “Raise at least $10,000 a week,” or kiss good-bye any hope of re-election.
David Jolly, a Republican congressman from Florida who is now campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat, is also tired of being in “a part-time Congress,” where fundraising has a higher priority than legislating. He announced in January that he will no longer personally solicit funds for his campaign, and he will file legislation prohibiting members of Congress from making those dreaded phone calls.
Few would object to members of Congress spending more time on their official duties, but insulating them from the realities of campaign finance will not lessen big money’s corruption of U.S. politics. Mr. Jolly is not pledging to spend less money on his campaign; he is simply relying on his staff to make the fundraising calls. He also acknowledges that “super PACs,” which are exempt from limits on personal contributions but are prohibited from directly coordinating with campaigns, can still spend on his behalf. The rise of super PACs and “dark money” groups—which spend millions on political ads but can keep their donors secret because they claim nonprofit status—is even more worrisome than members of Congress missing subcommittee hearings to chase down $1,000 donations. We need a more comprehensive solution to the soaring costs of running for public office.