Have you ever wanted to buy yourself the opportunity to influence Congresspeople?
Well, if you’re a Republican now’s your chance!
A sickening new report from The Intercept details revelations from leaked documents about how if you donate a certain amount of money to either the National Republican Congressional Committee or the National Republican Senatorial Committee, then you can have guaranteed access to top Congressional staffers.
If you couldn’t guess as much already, that’s illegal.
Nonetheless, a benefit of giving $1,500 yearly to the National Republican Senatorial Committee is an “invitation to attend events with Republican Chiefs of Staff, Leadership Staff, and Committee Staff.”
Over on the House side of the Republican Party’s Congressional Committee-work, if you give as little as $5,000 yearly to the National Republican Congressional Committee, you will receive an “invitation to attend receptions with Chiefs of Staff, Leadership Staff & Committee Staff.”
The point of the NRSC and the NRCC is for each organization to serve as an official party backbone for Republican campaigns for both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House, respectively. Fundraising for the NRSC or the NRCC is the same as fundraising for any number of specific Republican Congressional candidates.
It is expressly forbidden by Congressional ethics rules to use government resources for campaigns. That’s why the NRSC and the NRCC are separate entities from the Congress in the first place; not even the offices of incumbent Congresspeople can be turned into centers of campaign activity. Campaign activity and official government activity must be kept completely separate. It’s quite simple, really.
However, simple, straightforward ethics rules aren’t enough for the Republicans. They evidently think themselves above that kind of thing, seeing as they are using name drops of important, sitting government officials in their fundraising efforts.
Chris Ashby, a Republican campaign finance lawyer, argued to The Intercept that the Republicans’ usage of top Congressional isn’t actually illegal, since ethics rules don’t prohibit government officials from being involved in campaign work in a volunteer, non-official capacity.
That’s not, however, all that they’re doing. They are attending these events in full capacity as government officials, and that more than likely is illegal.
As Jessica Levinson, a law professor and ethics expert at Loyola Law School, told The Intercept: “This takes money buying access to a new level. This means that people with money can buy, in a very concrete sense, a meeting with important staffers.”
This situation isn’t the first time that partisan campaign fundraising has sparked ethics concerns, as The Intercept notes. Back in 2013, for instance, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee hosted a “Women on the Hill Dinner” with chiefs of staff to Democratic senators.
That dinner was, however, a one-off event, while these revelations from the Republican Party reveal a much more “structured” pattern of corruption.
Ironically, the Office of Government Ethics found none other than Tom Price, who is the sitting Secretary of Health and Human Services, to be in possible violation of these same ethics rules back in 2011. As a member of Congress at the time, he was discovered to be regularly bringing along his Congressional staff to campaign events.
He was cleared on account of the fact that those staff members apparently didn’t officially participate in campaign events. The same can not be said of the government officials who participate in the just revealed NRCC and NRSC activities.
Featured Image via Tom Williams/ CQ Roll Call