In an exclusive phone interview on Tuesday, former Rep. Allen West (R-FL) confirmed to Breitbart News that every committee slot on Capitol Hill for members, especially committee and subcommittee chairmen, comes with a fundraising price tag.
“There’s a huge focus [on fundraising for the party],” West said. “Every member got assessed dues and there were freshman colleagues of mine that they so wanted to be on an ‘A’ committee, in which some of them are listed as, like Ways and Means or Financial Services, and of course their dues were higher to be on an ‘A-list’ committee.”
“The committees that I was on, Armed Services Committee and Small Business Committee, were not ‘A-list’ and so I think my dues per year were around maybe the $50,000 or $60,000 range,” he continued. “It wasn’t a big thing for me, I guess, because of who I am and I guess my stature. I was able to easily raise the money to support the team. I had no problems with supporting our team. But I think the issue is when you start to tie it to the positions that you could have. I mean that becomes a bit of cronyism in and of itself.”
As Government Accountability Institute President and Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large Peter Schweizer exposes in his new book Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets, there are never-before-seen documents printed in the book that show committee assignments–and leadership slots on those committees–come with a price tag. The system in place works in both parties, too, with Republicans and Democrats involved. “Many of my colleagues in my freshman year that wanted to be on those ‘A-List’ committees, like I said some of those I mentioned are Ways and Means and Financial Services, and a couple others, and then all of a sudden when they got their dues assessment, they were kind of shocked,” West said in his interview with Breitbart News.
“But that was the price that they had to pay to be on those ‘A-Ranked’ committees. That’s on the Democrat side as well. It will cost you,” West explained. “As for chairmanships, that comes with a pretty good price tag in and of itself. Were there some that were shocked by it? Sure, absolutely. I don’t know if it was that real fine print that you see in the contract that they didn’t pay attention to.”
West said he never personally had any problems getting onto any committees, or raising funds. “I knew I wanted to be on the Armed Services Committee because that was my background and that made sense, and the other committee I wanted to be on was either the Intel or Foreign Relations Committee, because again, that’s related to my background,” West said. “The Select Committee on Intel is a little bit different and I understand you have to have a little more seniority to be there, and I got that; and when I ended up being on the Small Business Committee, I think that was one of the best things that ever happened to me because I really got a chance to clearly identify and understand the issues that face our small business owners and entrepreneurs and also small community banks with the policies coming out of Washington, D.C.”
“So, I had no problems with my committees and I had no problems with any of the legislative pieces I was pushing whatsoever,” he stated. “But then again, I was a guy that wasn’t beholden to anyone having to come down to help me raise me money. I was able to do that on my own through my own efforts, so that kind of gave me a little bit of independence, which that was very good to have in Washington, D.C.; to have your independence and not be dependent upon the system or the structure to pull strings and different types of machinations for you.”
As for members who cannot raise the money on their own like West could, he said he does not know where they go to get the money. “I don’t know, I was never in that position,” West said. “But I’m sure there are some that they are really put in a pickle and they do have to go to some of those industries that are part of the jurisdiction or oversight of that committee because you have to raise money. But I got to tell you, they put up the sign and the spreadsheet and nobody wants to be the person that failed with the goose egg because it’s kind of embarrassing.”
When he was raising money for party dues, West said he was always “very clear” with potential donors about “whether I was asking them to support the overall NRCC team,” or support his own campaign or initiatives. “If I did make a call for that [for the dues assessment], they knew the intent and the purpose and I never had problems reaching it because I was open and transparent with everybody,” West said.
On leadership PACs, another major part of the scandal that Schweizer’s book helped uncover, West noted that those who misuse those funds are likely to spoil the proper use of them for other members. “We all know there is corruption out there in Washington, D.C., and in politics,” West said. “Just the same as people could have used earmarks for the right way. As a matter of fact, an earmark was when they decided to add hellfire missiles on unmanned aerial vehicles. But then of course people started to abuse it with the Bridge to Nowhere and we just saw it recently with the $3 billion that went to Kentucky.”
“We have problems up in Washington, D.C. in that some people can take some things that are meant for good, such as leadership PACs, something that I continue to have right now with the Guardian PAC that we have, but they use it for the wrong reasons,” he explained. “It just once again shows there’s more self interest and special interest than there is American interest on Capitol Hill and in Washington, D.C.”
West said his leadership PAC supported 10 candidates in the 2012 cycle, and seven of them won their elections. “The three that were not successful–Mia Love, Martha McSally, and Vernon Parker–are running again and our Guardian PAC fund is supporting them,” West said. “I already announced my endorsement of Mia Love, and I’m going out to Utah in November to support her. It’s a good thing if you use it in the right way. But when you look at someone like Rob Andrews, who I served on the Armed Services Committee with, he’s using it to fly over to Edinburgh, Scotland? That kind of gives it a black eye.”
West said the average American out there can help fix the system’s flaws by demanding “accountability.” West said Americans should ask their congressmen and senators to publicly publish their Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports so that constituents do not need to dig around for them. He also thinks Americans should expect their members of Congress to publicly share what activities they are doing with their accounting, campaigns, fundraising and, if they have one, leadership PACs.
“For some of us that believe truly in transparency, that’s not a big deal,” West said. “But think about the insider trading and that we had to pass legislation for that to stop once the American people found out about it? If people in Washington, D.C. knew what right looked like–and you know I hate it when I read the pieces like this about how it’s not really illegal, well, it’s not. But it’s morally wrong. It’s a breach of trust. And that’s what people have to start understanding.”
Editor’s note: Former Rep. Allen West (R-FL) did not pay to be on his committees because they were not “A-List” committees. His party dues were normal assessments that all members took part in. The fundraising payments for committee assignments came for members who were on “A-List” committees and in leadership slots. West was not on any “A-List” committees and was not in leadership slots on committees on which he served, so his party dues were not tied to his committee slots.