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.

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Congress

House committee proposes transparency enhancements

The committee tasked with recommending ways to improve the inner workings of Congress approved a first set of policy proposals, focused on increasing the transparency of the lawmaking process.

The five proposed reforms passed Thursday by the bipartisan Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress are intended to improve the public's access to congressional information. The recommendations would:

  • Standardize the format of legislative text, making it easier for the public to access and understand legislation.
  • Create a centralized home to track committee votes.
  • Update both the House and Senate lobbying disclosure systems.
  • Make it easier to track amendments to legislation.
  • Create a database showing which agencies and programs are due for reauthorization.

Democratic Chairman Derek Kilmer said he plans to introduce legislation to reflect the transparency-focused proposals, which the committee passed unanimously.

"Transparency in Congress promotes more accountability to our constituents, and that's a good thing," Kilmer and the Republican vice chairman, Tom Graves, said in a statement. "These bipartisan recommendations are just the first step towards making the legislative branch more effective and accessible for the American people."

Big Picture

Election assistance agency says it’s way short of manpower and money

The federal agency charged with helping states secure their election systems has a problem usually reserved for mom-and-pop stores and start-ups.

The four Election Assistance Commission members told Congress on Wednesday that their office is stifled by a shoe-string budget and has so few employees in some departments that a simple office flu could cripple operations.

"We have a number of areas where if someone is out of the office ... things grind to a halt," Commissioner Ben Hovland told the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. "And that's unacceptable."

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