Rep. Steve Israel, the Democratic Party’s chief fundraiser, announced his retirement today from Congress. Why is he leaving office after eight terms?
“I don’t think I can spend another day in another call room making another call begging for money,” Mr. Israel told the New York Times.
This constant grind to finance reelections is known as “fundraising fatigue,” and it’s extremely dangerous to our government’s ability to function. Elected officials spend up to half their day raising money from the few Americans who can afford to write big checks, losing valuable time they could be using to meet with constituents, read, write and debate legislation and develop relationships with fellow lawmakers.
As former Senate Majority Leader and ReFormers Caucus member Tom Daschle said of this new Congressional schedule, “we leave on Thursday, come back on Tuesday and try to govern on Wednesday.”
Israel joins a growing cadre of legislators who are retiring early rather than continue the grueling task of constantly dialing for dollars. As the Upshot explained last year, leaders like Harry Reid (D-NV), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Dan Coats (R-IN) have all bowed out from Congress, often citing fundraising fatigue.
When our elected officials can’t lead, the result is a governing crisis. Said Rep. Israel, “I always knew the system was dysfunctional. Now it is beyond broken.”
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to free up politicians from the constant race for more cash, as we explained in our Blueprints for Democracy report. The most critical solution: citizen-funding of elections so everyone can participate and candidates can focus on all voters, not just the ones who can finance their campaigns.