A few months ago, CBS’ “60 Minutes” covered the practice of members of Congress “dialing for dollars” – spending hours in their party’s “call centers” on Capitol Hill, calling wealthy individuals and asking them to donate to their campaigns. CBS interviewed Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., who described the “sweatshop” practices of congressional fundraising:
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. And their only goal is to get $500 or $1,000 or $2,000 out of the person on the other end of the line.
A while back, I sat down with Jolly and Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Minn., both co-sponsors of a new bill designed to put an end to this practice. The Stop Act would prevent members of Congress from soliciting donations at all. We talked about some of the pros and cons of this approach, what congressional fundraising really looks like, and what it might mean for campaign finance more broadly – and would this just lead big donors to redirect their money to super PACs?
(Note: When we recorded this, Jolly was running for Senate in Florida. Since then, he has dropped out and will instead run for re-election in the House. His office confirmed that he still intends to abide by the pledge not to solicit any donations himself.)