Why are so many bills introduced in Congress if only 5% will ever become law? One of the reasons is that these floating bits of legislation can be used to compel companies to give money to politicians.
“You wouldn’t want that lobster illegalization bill to be passed now do you Mr. Lobster Industry?* Just make sure you guys continue to give generously this election cycle and I will will focus instead on the crab meat prohibition bill instead.
Peter Schweizer, friend of ACC and author of the new book Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets, examines the legal extortion on Capitol Hill in this New York Times piece.
(From The New York Times)
Take the maneuver known inside the Beltway as the “tollbooth.” Here the speaker of the House or a powerful committee chairperson will create a procedural obstruction or postponement on the eve of an important vote. Campaign contributions are then implicitly solicited. If the tribute offered by those in favor of the bill’s passage is too small (or if the money from opponents is sufficiently high), the bill is delayed and does not proceed down the legislative highway.
House Speaker John A. Boehner appears to be a master of the tollbooth. In 2011, he collected a total of over $200,000 in donations from executives and companies in the days before holding votes on just three bills. He delayed scheduling a vote for months on the widely supported Wireless Tax Fairness Act, and after he finally announced a vote, 37 checks from wireless-industry executives totaling nearly $40,000 rolled in. He also delayed votes on the Access to Capital for Job Creators Act and the Small Company Capital Formation Act, scoring $91,000 from investment banks and private equity firms, $32,450 from bank holding companies and $46,500 from self-described investors — all in the 48 hours between scheduling the vote and the vote’s actually being held on the House floor.
* As far as I know lobster is not in danger of being prohibited in the United States.