30 hours. That’s how much time Congress spends on the phone each week calling up contacts and total strangers, asking for money. That’s “probably more than most telemarketers,” comments Rep. Rick Nolan in a recent 60 Minutes piece. And it’s all on the American public’s dime.
Why is Congress “dialing for dollars” at near full-time hours? Rep. David Jolly shares the pep-talk he was given when he first entered Congress in 2014:
“You have six months until the election. Break that down to having to raise $2 million in the next six months. And your job, new member of Congress, is to raise $18,000 a day. Your first responsibility is to make sure you hit $18,000 a day.”
Only 14% of Americans say they think Congress is doing a good job. The truth is most of the time they’re not not doing their job at all. Most of the time, they’re not legislating, or visiting with constituents. Most of the time, they’re fundraising.
The Call Centers
Members of Congress aren’t allowed to make fundraising calls from their offices, so both parties set up “call centers” across the street. This is where our congressmembers spend most of their days, sitting in cramped cubicles, calling down a list of names. The atmosphere in these call centers has been compared to a sweatshop.
“It is a cult-like boiler room on Capitol Hill where sitting members of Congress, frankly I believe, are compromising the dignity of the office they hold by sitting in these sweatshop phone booths calling people asking them for money.” ~Rep. David Jolly
One “model daily schedule” that recently came to light instructs congressmembers to spend 4 hours a day fundraising—compared to just 2 hours legislating. Put another way, congressmembers are being told to spend more time raising money than on the actual business of Congress.
“The House schedule is actually arranged around fundraising.” ~Rep. David Jolly
Frustration is widespread among congressmembers about the amount of time they must spend fundraising, but nonetheless they can’t seem to do anything about it. Seems backwards, right? After all, they’re Congress—they’re the ones who make the laws. But Rep. David Jolly’s bill to address the problem has received next to no support from his peers. Says Jolly, “I think people are scared to death for their own reelection.”
Meanwhile, productivity in Congress is at an all-time low, while American frustration is at a boiling point. Could part of the problem be the long hours Congress is putting in, dialing for dollars?
You can watch the full 60 Minutes piece here.