In a political system where presidential candidates, congressmen and women, and even judges are forced to spend more time than ever fundraising instead of listening to their constituents and governing, those who control the flow of money to candidates gain incredible power.
As we’ve reported previously, even politicians are suffering from increasing irrelevance confronted with powerful moneyed interests. The big winner from all this spending is the political influence industry. Unfortunately for those being represented, the best talent is attracted to these powerful and well-paid positions while congressional staffers remain inexperienced and underpaid.
In House offices, one-third of staffers are in their first year, while only 1 in 3 has worked there for five years or more.
And this amplifies the power that the talented and well-resourced lobbyists have over members of Congress:
While senators make $174,000, staff assistants and legislative correspondents — by far the most common positions in the Senate— have median pay of $30,000 and $35,000, respectively, significantly less than Senate janitors and a fairly low salary for college graduates in a city as expensive as Washington.
So when congressional staffers are trying to live more comfortably, they turn to the revolving door. What is more, even while working as a staffer, there is the incentive to treat powerful lobbyists well in hopes of future job prospects. Jack Abramoff criticized the perverse incentives in a speech at the Capital Tiger Bay Club.
His team succeeded, he said, because “about 90 percent of the people I met with wanted to work for me” as lobbyists some day.