“Congress is where a man gets up to speak, says nothing, nobody listens – and then everybody disagrees.” (Bob Phillips)

As we approach the midterm elections this fall, it came to me that we are about to cast our votes for people we know almost nothing about. The marketing campaigns for these representatives are filled with misinformation about their opponents and mere platitudes about their own good intentions once elected. I haven’t heard an original idea in my entire life. The sad truth is most of us will vote for the person we think is the least reprehensible, not the most qualified. Therefore, I have come up with 3 key questions that we should ask everyone who aspires to higher office.

1. “Who gave you the most money for your campaign and what do you have to do to repay it?” Don’t kid yourself about campaign financing. It costs literally millions to run for Congress and given that the job only pays $174,000 a year plus benefits where do you think that money comes from? It comes from people who want a return on their investment. They expect to be given access to that Congressmen’s ear and much more. Full disclosure statements of every dollar raised should be printed in the local papers before election day. That’s the only way you will ever know what that person will vote for. Will Rogers said it best, “What do you suppose they are in Congress for, if it ain’t to split up the swag?”

2. “Would you vote for a Constitutional amendment that would make it unlawful for Congress to exempt itself from any legislation it passes?” This one seems like a complete no-brainer but then again it’s Congress were dealing with here so go ahead and ask. Exempting themselves is right out of the standard Congressional Playbook and it’s Chapter One. For some reason Congress doesn’t think they need to play by the same rules they impose on the rest of us. This practice dates all the way back to the Civil Service Act of 1883. That’s right, 127 years of legislation have come and gone and Congress still debates whether they should be included. There really shouldn’t be any discussion at all. What’s fair is fair and maybe if they had to own up to their own standards they would pass better laws in the first place. Is that too much to ask?

3. “How much money have you spent on Congressional fact-finding junkets and how much return on investment did we, the taxpayers, get for these vacations?” Obviously, this only applies to incumbents but it’s mostly about full disclosure so the aspiring representative should be asked how they would handle this if elected. Every Congressman should be required to publicly account for every dollar spent on junkets to foreign countries and the actual benefit that was derived from these trips. We hear all the time about Congressmen visiting different parts of the world with their spouses and staff and that these trips are absolutely vital to their mission as representatives. I have yet to hear what we have to show for all the money we spent. If we’re ever going to get out of debt we need to start with Congressional perks. I think every representative should be given a fixed budget of $1.5 million a year for his office needs, fact-finding, constituent communications etc. and then a quarterly report be issued showing us all where they spend their money.

These 3 questions will tell you all you need to know about your own Congressmen. We need to start thinking of them as public servants which means they serve us not themselves. They are not special in any way and they can all be replaced if we decide they aren’t up to it. Maybe if they feared the electorate and the probability of having to return to the real world they would then be motivated to behave in  more ethical and helpful ways. Congress isn’t sacred and we need to ask tough questions to make it work better. For far too long we have given away our power in exchange for special interests and pet projects in our districts. Is anybody out there happy with the way this county is going now? Can we do better? The absolute minimum requirement for election to public office should be accountability and full disclosure.

My final piece of advice is simple. Write your Congressman and ask these 3 questions. I promise you, the answers you don’t get will speak volumes about the state of our government. Then if we choose to send these same people back to Washington we will have no one to blame but ourselves. We have everything to gain and nothing to lose, so just do it.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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