The Intercept has revealed that the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) are raising funds from wealthy donors by promising access to government-employed legislative staffers.
Documents obtained in conjunction with the Center for Media and Democracy show that the Republicans’ top Congressional campaign organizations have been brazenly flouting the law to sell these encounters for thousands of dollars. For $1,500 per year, donors receive an “Invitation to attend events with Republican Chiefs of Staff, Leadership Staff, and Committee staff,” while $5,000 yearly will get them invited to briefings by “House Leadership Staff.” (Images below.)
Caroline Fredrickson, former chief of staff to Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) told the Intercept, “You can’t use resources that are paid for by the taxpayer to service campaign donors. That’s blatantly illegal.”
For decades, Republicans have been accused of selling influence to the highest bidder, campaign contributions in exchange for access and action on the priorities of wealthy corporate interests. After Sean Spicer’s disgraceful, false comments about Hitler not gassing his own people, rather than call Jewish community leaders, President Trump’s press secretary called billionaire donor Sheldon Adelson to apologize.
This, however, crosses a new line. With salaries paid for by taxpayer dollars, legislative staffers are barred from engaging in political activities in their government capacities, making this Republican money grab not only unethical but illegal as well. While government employees may engage in political activity, the Hatch Act mandates that they must do so on their own time, separate from their official roles and without utilizing government resources.
Additionally, Congressional ethics rules bar the practice explicitly, with the Senate allowing for only incidental overlap of official and campaign duties while House regulations abide by “the basic principle that government funds should not be spent to help incumbents gain reelection.”
The facade that imagined Republican government to be of, by, and for the people has always been thin. This, however, shatters the illusion entirely. Contrary to what some say, Republicans are working very hard for American people — the ones willing to pay.
Sheila Norton is a writer with ten years of Capitol Hill experience. Subscribe to the OD Action email to get all the hottest news delivered right to your inbox every day at www.odaction.com