Home Politics Here’s Why 97% Of Congress Get Re-Elected Each Year

Here’s Why 97% Of Congress Get Re-Elected Each Year


Submitted by Adam Andrzejewski, first published in Forbes

How is 97 percent of Congress able to get re-elected each year even though only 17 percent of the American people believe our representatives are doing a good job?

It’s called an incumbent protection system. Taxpayers have a right to know how it works.

Recently, our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com, mashed up the federal checkbook with the congressional campaign donor database (source: OpenSecrets.org). We found powerful members of Congress soliciting campaign donations from federal contractors based in their districts.

We followed the money and found a culture of conflict-of-interest. The confluence of federal money, campaign cash, private employment, investments, prestigious committee appointments, political power, nepotism, and other conflicts are a fact pattern.

Furthermore, members of Congress own investment stock in, are employed by, and receive retirement pensions from federal contractors to whom they direct billions of taxpayer dollars.

Moreover, members sponsor legislation that affects these contractors. The contractor’s lobbyists then advocate for the legislation that helps the member and the contractor. Oftentimes, the contractor’s lobbyist also donates campaign cash to the member.

Here are five case examples detailing the conflict-of-interest among five powerful members of Congress:

Rep. John Larson (D-CT1): United Technologies (UT) executives, employees, political action committee, and affiliated lobbyists are the #1 campaign donor to Larson’s committee ($377,050). UT collected federal grants (subsidies) $83.8 million and federal contracts $16.1 billion (2014-2018). Mr. Larson owns UT stock 2012-2018 (last disclosure). Larsen is a ranking member on House Ways and Means.

Seven years ago, Larson’s wife got a state job from the wife of a campaign donor, who was also the state insurance commissioner. She beat out 199 other candidates and was the only one to fill out a job application. Since her hiring, she’s earned an estimated $600,000 in cash compensation.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK4): The Chickasaw Nation and affiliates are the #1 campaign donor to Cole’s committee ($258,461). The Nation received $700 million in federal grants and $434,000 in surplus military equipment from the Pentagon, including mine-resistant vehicles, night vision goggles, mine-detecting sets, and rifles that shoot .308 rounds. Cole is a ranking member on House Appropriations.

Since 2002, Cole’s campaign committee has hired Cole’s private political consulting partnership: Cole, Hargrave, and Snodgrass. Cole’s campaign has paid his firm a total of $224,000.

Since 2003, Mr. Cole has earned roughly $320,000 in “management fees” from his firm – while also serving in Congress. He’s also disclosed receiving $175,000 – $575,000 in “dividends/capital gains” and his “equity interest” in the firm is listed as between $250,000 – $500,000.

The Chickasaw Nation responded regarding their donations and any perceived conflict-of-interest issues with Rep. Tom Cole:

As an active participant in the political process working to enhance the quality of life of our citizens, we support candidates who have similar policy views.

The Chickasaw Nation spokesperson

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN5): Vanderbilt University’s executives and employees are the #1 all-time campaign donor to Cooper’s committee ($135,261) – including $21,500 from just-retired chancellor Nicholas Zeppos. Vanderbilt has received $2.6 billion in federal payments (2014-2018) including grants ($2.3 billion); direct payments ($31.2 million); and contracts ($187 million). Cooper is a ranking member of the Budget committee.

Mr. Cooper was employed by Vanderbilt during the period 2005 through 2017 and disclosed earnings of $250,500 in cash compensation. He made between $20,000 and $23,500 a year teaching a graduate level class in Vanderbilt’s HealthCare MBA program at the Owen Graduate School of Management as an adjunct professor.

Former Rep. – Current Governor Kristi Noem (R-South Dakota): Sanford Health’s executives, employees, and lobbyists are the #1 all-time campaign donor to Noem’s federal committee ($110,462). Top executives provided Noem campaign donations early in her career including $7,500 from CEO Kelby Krabbenhoft.

In 2019, Noem was sworn in as governor of South Dakota. She’s appointed two Sanford executives to head up state agencies. Noem’s transition chief was a Sanford lobbyist.

Governor Noem has proposed aiding the state’s nursing home industry by raising the rate of Medicaid payments and providing $5 million in grants to help innovate facilities. Sanford Health owns 32 nursing homes in South Dakota.

Does Sanford Health really need taxpayer aid? This “nonprofit” organization has annual revenues of $3.7 billion, assets of $2.8 billion, and paid it’s CEO $2.2 million last year.

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI12): Although Dingell wasn’t elected to Congress until 2014, a member of the Dingell family has held MI-12 congressional seat for 86 years.

The executives and employees of the University of Michigan (U-M) are the #1 campaign donor to Dingell’s committee ($61,502). This is despite the fact that Dingell sits on two prominent U-M boards: the Ford School of Public Policy and the Depression Center. Trustees and university employees of those boards have donated to her campaign.

One of Dingell’s duties on the board of the Ford School is to help the school raise money and network.

Dingell is a ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. On March 21, 2019, she signed an earmark letter to the Department of Transportation (USDOT) in support of $7.5 million in grants to U-M and other partners regarding research on self-driving cars. In a press release, Dingell took credit that USDOT authorized the grant in August 2019.

The University of Michigan responded regarding their donations and any perceived conflict-of-interest issues with Rep. Debbie Dingell:

Our employees are free to make personal campaign contributions to any elected official they may wish to support.

University of Michigan spokesperson

Nothing we discovered is illegal. At arms-length, all of the transactions are legal. And that’s the problem.

We polled our subscribers and 1,900 people responded: 96 percent thought it was unethical for a member of Congress to solicit campaign donations from federal contractors based in their districts. Furthermore, 92 percent said it was an important or very important issue.

The American people get it. Members should refuse to accept campaign donations from federal contractors and their affiliates.

Note: A request for comment was sent to all members and contractors mentioned in this piece. No members of Congress responded to our comment requests. Contractor respondents included: The University of Michigan, full comment, here; The Chickasaw Nation, full comment, here. Sanford Health didn’t respond to this request, however, they issued this comment earlier, here.

via zerohedgefinance


      • I don’t see how as they haven’t done their job in 2 and half years they’re more obese with destroying this president ! My opinion they are extremely spoiled rich brats and are extremely sore loses !! Who in their right mind would give illegals free medical care and turn their backs on our veteran and seniors

        • Yes, but “regular” citizens still have to vote. I think a better explanation for their staying in office is the years of ILLEGAL/FRAUDULENT VOTNG.

        • Dale, they are not in their right minds. These Congressmen and women have their own agenda and you can bet it is not for representing the American Taxpayer. Their only interest is to stay in office and retire with multi-millions of bribe money from corporations . Term Limits will bring this to an end and it is one thing they do not want.

  1. Term limits of no more than 20 years. The only way to get a retirement is make it the full 20. Got fired (voted out) no befits. Just like any job in America. If the politicians get rich while in office investigate and prosecute them for corruption.

    • Term Limit 5 years. If they are BAD we don’t want to put up with them for 20 years. They get paid enough they don’t need retirement benefit funds paid for by American People if they are BAD. If they are GOOD they will get re-elected and will get benefits

    • Nonsense to use term limits of 20 years!!!!! These people are so corrupt we can’t even get rid of them. The Press and the Liberals have told so many lies, no one can keep track of them all.
      6-8 year limits are essential. Get them in and OUT as soon as their term is up. Pay them fair wages and NO PENSIONS for years and years. Let them create Pension funds of their own and set up their retirement by good economics and honest dealings. NOTHING MORE than fair pay is FAIR to the American Public who have to work hard to provide retirement income.

      • We can only hope but it’s just spitting into the wind to have those in Congress adhere to fairness in politics and the compensation they receive for what little they do for the American Taxpayer.


  3. When you take a bribe –you need to be removed and sent to jail–since when is bribery not a crime–get rid of lobbyists and 2yrs term limits for every congress person and cut their salaries down to less than 1/2 and no expense accounts. they should get a job and work in Congress part-time. They waste time and enjoy themselves at our expense and do not represent us or do what we tell them to do–they are supposed to be our employees–so if they do not do the work –they are fired!!!!

  4. Everyone that’s been in office over twelve years should go. I mean everyone repubs, dems, independent no matter what party.

  5. And they still get to make false allegations and get aided and abetted by the fake news media. Who investigates these people? THEMSELVES!! That’s why nothing sticks to POS Such as Pelosi or Hitlery Clinton

  6. I don’t see how as they haven’t done their job in 2 and half years they’re more obese with destroying this president ! My opinion they are extremely spoiled rich brats and are extremely sore loses !! Who in their right mind would give illegals free medical care and turn their backs on our veteran and seniors

  7. Term limits yes, but also we need to PROSECUTE them to the fullest extent of the law. Once this is done, the message will be LOUD and CLEAR to those running in the future. They are there to do the Business of the USA LEGITIMATE citizens, not privately make themselves, family members, and spouse, girlfriends, boyfriends, rich.

    What has been done to OUR Veterans is ABSOLUTELY disgusting. And to the seniors, who have worked hard all their lives, and deserve the “fruits of their labor in their golden years” are being forced to supply it to illegals and spoiled youngsters, who were told THEY deserve it WITHOUT working for it.

  8. This is all about how our government is paid for and controlled by big business. If you really look at the ballet, you won’t see to many incumbents that have any one running against them. So you don’t have much of a choice. You won’t see another Republican or Democrat running against one another. Most of the time you see this when there is a death, resignation, or retirement of the person in office. Incumbent Definition ( exacted as a duty,obligatory,lying or resting upon something else,presently in office, holds an office.

  9. Corruption is how and the day it all changed was the day congress changed the law and allowed corporations to donate to campaigns vice individuals. We have now nothing but a bunch of paid prostitutes in congress who do their bidding……but not by me.

  10. Term limits similar to the POTUS, and limits and restrictions on what the taxpayers have to shell out after they’re gone. There is a bill in Congress that amends the 1958 legislation, but it probably won’t pass the Senate. It calls for former elected officials to no lobby current elected officials, or give speeches to elected officials (for money).

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