Rep. Joe Schwarz, a former Congressman from Michigan, recently gave an interview for Stateside on Michigan Radio. As a member of Issue One’s ReFormers Caucus, a bipartisan coalition of former congressmen, governors, cabinet secretaries and ambassadors who are concerned about money in politics, Rep. Schwarz succinctly described the fundraising addiction that afflicts our Congress, which he experienced first-hand in the House of Representatives in the 2000s.
Rep. Schwarz confirmed: “There’s a lot of pressure on especially junior members of Congress … to raise money and they’re told by … leadership you’re expected to spend a certain amount of time—and really a ridiculously large amount of time—while in Washington at party headquarters, sometimes actually cold-calling people for money. It’s been done that way for years.”
The Congressman recalled his time on the Hill and the consequences of his refusal to spend all his time fundraising. “When I pushed back and said no, I lost a lot of institutional support from the Republican party, especially the Congressional Campaign Committees because I just wouldn’t do it.” He also discussed the benefits of raising large amounts of money for the party coffers: choice committee placements, irrespective of expertise or prior knowledge.
Rep. Schwarz is committed to creating policy solutions. After retirement he became a professor of public policy at the Ford School at the University of Michigan. One solution, floated by Rep. Schwarz, is to limit the amount of time our elected officials can spend fundraising while in Washington. That would allow Congressmen to spend more time learning and drafting policy, rather than letting lobbyists dictate our laws.
While campaign finance reform is often considered the domain of Democrats, Republican Rep. Schwarz serves as an example of the ReFormers Caucus’s bipartisan credentials. Fundraising addiction plagues both parties equally and newly elected Congressmen of all political stripes find themselves flabbergasted when they first realize how they’ll be asked to spend much of their time.
You can listen to the full interview here.