We've talked about Ken Buck's book, "Drain the Swamp," at this blog before. For me, the most memorable portion was Mr. Buck's exhibit showing the actual costs for those U.S. Representatives who want leadership roles. Here's an excerpt from pages 37-39:
Representatives want committee seats for a variety of reasons, some of them honorable, some of them not. For some members' committee assignments aren't so much about public service as they are about raising one's public profile -- and attracting special interest donations to one's campaign fund. Because congressional leadership understands that self-interest motivates many members to serve on committees, they leverage that desire by unofficially ranking the committees.
Numerous high-level members of the Republican House leadership have confirmed to me that committees are ranked. The ranking system is understood by members' though seldom spoken of. Committees are assigned letters -- A, B, or C -- based on how important they are deemed to be by leadership.
There are five A committees in the House: Appropriators and Means, Energy and Commerce, Rules, and Financial Services. Both parties use committee appointments to raise money. If you want to serve on a committee in Congress' you have to pay for the privilege.
Here's how it works for Republicans. If you want to serve on a committee, you have to raise money for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). The amount varies depending on the committee and role. For example, to serve on a B or C level committee, a GOP House freshman member must raise $220,000 every two years. I paid that amount to the NRCC in my first term in Congress, but now must pay more than double that amount. Veteran members on A committees must raise more than twice that amount-$450,000. That's right, almost half a million dollars to do what the people elected them to do.
Republican representatives from districts deemed to be at risk by the NRCC get their dues discounted by at least 30 percent. Twelve Republican members were designated in 2015 to be part of this "Patriot" program,5 but other members whose districts were equally at risk, like Rod Blum, were nor included in the program, because they did not play the leadership's game.
As it is, some members of Congress spend at least half their time fundraising to keep their dues paid and campaign coffers full. If you become the chair of a B committee -- congratulations -- you're now expected to raise $875,000 a year for the NRCC. Chairing an A committee means you must raise $1.2 million. The higher your role in the House leadership, the higher the price tag:
When representatives don't pay their "dues" or fall behind, they are pressured to pay up-or else. It's happened to me, and I've heard similar stories from countless others.
Candidates' ability to raise cash is largely influenced by how well they play the game with leadership, and if you don't pay your dues, you can't use the NRCC call suites (or other benefits like the NRCC recording studios) to raise money.
To make matters worse, the NRCC got caught using those pay to-play funds to support a recount effort against a conservative candidate in a Republican primary in 2016.
When Andy Biggs ran to replace the retiring Matt Salmon in Arizona's Fifth District, he narrowly defeated the moderate opponent in the primary, former GoDaddy executive Christine Jones.
The NRCC has a longstanding policy to not meddle in primary elections, a promise affirmed to me in person by leadership. Yet the NRCC paid more than $300,000 in legal fees to fund Jones's recount effort. After Biggs won the recount by twenty-seven votes and won again in the general election, the NRCC offered to lower his dues and write a check to his campaign for the same amount that they gave his opponent.
I felt the same sting from my own party in 2010 when the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) gave my opponent $500,000 in the primary race. She used that money to label me as anti-woman, a theme my Democratic opponent was only too happy to capitalize on in the general election.
Committee assignments, then, are less about qualifications than they are about cash -- or, to put it another way cash is the chief qualification you need.
Jason Chaffetz confirms this, for the most part, in an interview with Sharyl Attkisson. Here's a quote in an answer about fund raising: "Look, as a position, as a chairman of a, of a committee, plus what I have to do with my own campaign, I have to raise about a million dollars a year, maximum individual contribution is 2700 dollars."
1:19 PM 11/16/2017