Balance of Power
Balance of Power
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Shutting down the revolving door between Congress and K Street will not solve problems, only make them worse, writes Delancey.

Banning former members of Congress from lobbying won’t fix what’s wrong with lobbying

DeLancey is the co-founder and CEO of Lobbyists 4 Good, a crowdfunding platform that enables individuals to hire lobbyists.

Twitter was abuzz last month when a group of unlikely allies – Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Chip Roy, Sen. Ted Cruz, and Sen. Brian Schatz – promised to work together on legislation that would ban former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists.

While their intentions are obviously good, and they should be applauded for their efforts, banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists will do little to achieve their goal of "draining the swamp" and reducing corporate influence on politics.

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A one-bedroom, one-bath apartment totaling 460 square foot will run you $1,950 on Capitol Hill.

Congress should get a pay raise, whether they deserve it or not

Drutman, a senior fellow in the political reform program at New America, and Kosar, vice president of policy at the R Street Institute, are co-directors of the nonpartisan Legislative Branch Capacity Working Group.

You've surely heard the old line, "The best Congress money can buy." Typically, it's said sardonically. In the classic formulation, it's not your money doing the buying. It's special interests and lobbyists forking over the dough. In exchange, they get the best Congress they can buy – for them.

But what if it were your money? How much should you, the taxpayers, be willing to pay? If you want a Congress that works for you, can you get it on the cheap?

The debate is not an academic one. House Democrats and Republican leaders have proposed boosting legislators' pay by providing a cost of living adjustment of $4,500. The current annual salary of $174,000 has not changed since 2009. Adjusted for inflation, that amounts to a 16 percent decrease.

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Three arguments for – and against – a Capitol pay raise

Plans for giving members of Congress the first salary increase in a decade blew up this week, and some "good government" advocates are sad about it. Why?

Congressional pay is among the most perennially fraught topics on Capitol Hill. House members and senators will always be delighted with bigger paychecks but don't want to be seen grabbing for them. Advocates for improving the functioning of Congress, thereby strengthening it in balance-of-powers fights with the president, argue that having the legislative branch spend more on itself is essential.

The House almost always takes the lead on deciding whether to accept an annual cost-of-living increase for all members. Despite bipartisan behind-the-scenes maneuvering designed to grease the wheels for a 3 percent raise in January, the Democratic leadership abandoned the idea when a bloc of their members cried out that they'd lose their seats as a consequence.

Beyond the political messiness, however, lie serious arguments for and against a boost in member pay. Here is a guide to the pros and cons central to the debate:

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Balance of Power

Virginia Sen. Emmett Hanger (center) receives the Unity Award from Unite America and its state affiliate, Unite Virginia.

Bipartisan 'good government' trio win Virginia legislative primaries

Three candidates who emphasized collaboration and democracy reform have triumphed in hotly contested Virginia legislative primaries.

The bipartisan trio of off-year victories Tuesday are a small but emblematic sign that such campaigns can succeed despite the highly polarized and partisan nature of politics at all levels of government.

The notable winners are likely to cruise to election November because each of their districts is safe for their parties. Two are Democrats running for open and solidly blue seats in the state House, Suhas Subramanyam in the Washington exurbs and Martha Mugler in the Hampton Roads area. The other is a two-decade veteran Republican who represents conservative areas north of Charlottesville in the state Senate, Emmett Hanger.

Another longtime GOP incumbent running on similar reformer themes, state Rep. Chris Peace from outside Richmond, declared victory but so did his rival and the winner will likely be determined in court.

The campaigns of the four were elevated to prominence because they were the only legislative candidates endorsed by Unite Virginia, a state affiliate of Unite America, which seeks to elect "candidates who put people over party." The group praised them all for their commitment to reform — all support proposals to turn political mapmaking in the state over to a bipartisan commission, for example — and a commitment to working with politicians of the other party.

Unite Virginia's Matt Scoble emphasized Hanger's efforts to advance an anti-gerrymandering bill in Richmond as evidence he was a "pragmatic and effective legislator."

Subramanyam, who worked in the Obama administration, and Mugler, a Hampton school board member, were both singled out for their interest in bipartisanship. Additionally, Subramanyam campaigned for government transparency, better campaign finance reform and a more fair voting system.

Unite Virginia's goal is not to pick candidates based on ideology, Scoble said, but "to make the system more functional and bring more governance to the people."