News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.
Congress

Cameras as cash machines worrying Hill's reformers

Lindsey Graham was pissed.

He shook a fist in the air, his face red and body stiff. Graham had had enough.

The whole thing was "crap," "a charade" and "despicable," the South Carolina Republican said.

By the fifth day of Senate hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Graham was done with Democrats harping on what he considered to be a slanderous sexual assault allegation.

"This is the most unethical sham since I've been in politics," Graham said, pointing a finger across the dais of the Judiciary Committee.

The clip went viral. Fox News ate it up. And for Graham, the soundbites paid off handsomely.

During the next month, his campaign received $319,000 in large donations (more than $200) – or five times what he raised the previous month. More than 80 percent of the money came from people outside Graham's home state.

For the senator, who's seeking a fourth term next year, the takeaway is clear: Full-throated histrionics, when broadcast live for millions and replayed for days on cable news, can turn into easy money.

But for those focused on how Congress is stymied by partisanship and consumed by fundraising, the moment delivered this counterintuitive message: While putting Congress on TV has brought transparency to the legislative process, it has also created a prime venue for the sort of grandstanding that galvanizes a political base, divides a country and raises a whole lot of money.

Keep reading... Show less
© Issue One. All rights reserved.