Right Idea, Wrong Answer

Congressman David Jolly (R, FL) had a piece on Fox News in which he lamented the amount of time Congressmen spend raising money for their future campaigns for Congress.

He’s right. Congressmen do spend too much time doing this.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently greeted an incoming crop of freshmen with a prescribed schedule that highlighted fundraising “Call Time” of four hours a day as the chief priority for any new member of Congress. The actual time they suggested working in Congress each day: just two hours!

It’s not just Democrats, though; Republicans do this, too.


I’m introducing legislation called “The Stop Act.” It simply says that that no member of Congress may personally ask you for money.

This does not mean that you as a citizen cannot choose to contribute to a candidate. It is your constitutional right of political speech to do so.


We can’t have a part‐time Congress in a full‐time world.

He’s mistaken here. Congressmen don’t need to be banned from personally asking me for money. If they were, each Congressman would only hire a staffer to do it for him—driving up the need for money. What does need to be addressed, and not necessarily with a new law, is the incentive to raise money.

Why is it so expensive to be a Congressman? A couple reasons, far from the only ones (I’m eliding inflated campaigning costs), are the high cost of living in DC and the surrounding area, and the cost of travel. Modern communications technology, though, greatly reduces (though it does not eliminate) the need for Congressmen to be personally present all the time.

Another reason is the existence of a full-time Congress. We don’t need a full-time Congress, even in a full-time world, though Congressmen do need to be fully present and fully focused during part-time Congresses. Congressmen think the only way to measure how much they’re doing for their constituents is by the number of laws they get passed. A full-time Congress simply emphasizes that pressure.

In fact, though, the best measure of what they’re doing for their constituents is how many law proposals they successfully block. The best measure is how effectively they’re keeping government out of the lives of their constituents, not how successfully they’re injecting government into those lives via another law. Changing their mindset would greatly reduce the incentive to raise money.

This proposed law is an example of misplaced incentive.

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