Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Random Act of Journalism

Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets – Peter Schweizer (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Writer Peter Schweizer is one of a truly rare breed; an investigative journalist. There are pretenders who lay claim to the moniker; those in nice suits, with perfect hair and faces that look serious into the camera as they deliver their story, but in the end are, just more empty entertainment for the low information types.

Schweizer is the real deal. He digs deep into his research and then knits together the pieces of the puzzle to tell his story in a way that has become all too rare; the random act of journalism. In his latest effort, Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets, Schweizer carefully builds the premise that both political parties are guilty of creating a system that has become a self-perpetuating organism that keeps politicians in what he rightly call the “permanent political class.”

Have you ever wondered why nothing of any substance ever seems to get done in Washington? It’s not because of gridlock or a lack of bipartisanship that we hear about everyday from the non-journalist media; it stems from what Schweizer describes as “tollbooths” and “milkers” those seemingly perpetual “issues” that Washington seems to recycle every couple of years. Party A has constituents that are in favor of some legislation, while Party B has folks who are against it; Party A will bring up the issue so they can milk donations from their side while Party b will erect a “tollbooth” to block the way and garner donations from their side of the equation. Nothing gets done and in a few months or years, likely around the time that Congress runs for reelection the whole process of milking and blocking starts all over again.
It’s good work if you can get it! You’ll noticed I used party A and B, not D(emocrat) or R(epublican) because both parties are guilty of this practice that results in nothing but keeping them in place in Washington. In fact there are examples where they have traded places on issues, one time being in favor and the next against a piece of legislation, based simply on who was ponying up the bucks!

Schweizer also lays out the case of self and family enrichment being part and parcel of this whole process. Ever wonder how Senator Harry Reid, who grew up poor in tiny Searchlight, Nevada suddenly, became one of the richest members of Congress with a $1 million condo in the DC Ritz Carlton? Schweizer lays out the details of the rise of not only Reid’s power, but the wealth of not only of the Senator, but of his family members. To be fair he also details the power brokering, Republican Blunt family in Missouri. These are not rare stories. The stories of families being enriched by having a Washington powerbroker in the clan like the late Arlen Specter, the late John Murtha, former speaker of the house Dennis Hastert among many other is the stuff of legend.

While the story that Schweizer weaves may lead you to throw your hands up in disgust and despair over having no way to fight the power, he also lays out the case for how this pervasive issue can be addressed by the voters. For those who are doubtful about the details included here, rest assured that Schweizer has included a plethora end notes and original documents in the book. This is a must read for any citizen concerned with trying to change the system which seemed stacked against us.

No comments: