On Friday, Peter Schweizer, the author of Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets, said the culture of Washington, D.C. resembles The Sopranos more than Jimmy Stewart’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
Schweizer’s comments echoed the fundamental thesis of his book: that lawmakers in Washington extort more money and favors from companies and industries than those companies influence legislators.
The Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large and Government Accountability Institute President addressed the Young America’s Foundation at the Reagan Ranch in California. He said Washington is now “less Jimmy Stewart and more like the Sopranos” as the country is “moving from a free market economy and approaching an extortion economy of which Washington, D.C. is our nation’s capital.”
Schweizer has emphasized that there is a misconception that politicians who come to Washington are honest brokers who are only corrupted by unseemly outside forces. In fact, Schweizer said it is the other way around, with lawmakers in Washington often extorting money from individuals and companies that just want to be left alone.
He said politicians are now only “as good as your last envelope” and mentioned that the Italian mafia was “literally organized by Italian politicians.”
He discussed how Attorney General Eric Holder is like the “squeegee man with the brick” in helping use the Justice Department to extort money from individuals for the Obama campaign. Schweizer claimed there is statistical proof that the chances of someone being prosecuted by Obama’s Justice Department decreases after a contribution. He also explained how politicians and Obama use milker bills and “double milker bills” that he describes in book.
In addition to using the threat of legislation to extract donations or only moving bills forward if “tolls” are paid, Schweizer emphasized that politicians often use the actual bills to extract all kinds of favors. For instance, he noted that the Glass-Steagall Act was 35 pages while Dodd-Frank was over 2,000 pages, leading to those who wrote the Dodd-Frank Act to immediately make hundreds of thousands of dollars interpreting for businesses the obscure law that they wrote.
Schweizer suggested that with some simple reforms, Washington did not have to be as much of a racket as it is today. For instance, he said politicians should be forced to “read the laws they are voting on before they vote on them.” Schweizer also suggested banning lawmakers from raising money while Congress is in session, which he believed would make legislative sessions shorter and more effective. Because Congress would not be in session for as many days, another positive consequence of such reforms may be that Congress will have less opportunities to expand the government or extract money and favors from donors and industries.
Schweizer noted that many politicians come to Washington without considerable wealth and leave as millionaires. He said that the more power Congress is given “to extract, things will get worse.”
Discussing the “dues” that lawmakers in Congress must pay to get on various committees, a fact Schweizer exclusively broke in his book with never-before-published documentation, he said Congress is like “a country club you may not be interested in joining, but you are going to join.” He said that “is basically how it works” before noting he had always naively thought that lawmakers got assigned to committees based on their expertise of the subject matter.
He said the dues Democrats and Republicans have to pay to their respective parties and the price tags associated with the various committees further empowers lobbyists and consultants in the permanent political class that have turned Washington, D.C. into the country’s preeminent Boomtown.
When a student in the audience asked why the media do not unearth these stories like Schweizer has, Schweizer said many journalists are too busy chasing stories day to day to reflect upon the bigger picture and look at the forest instead of the trees.
More importantly, Schweizer also mentioned that Washington jouranlists simply “don’t want to offend people in power” and that is why the supposed “watchdogs” turn “into lapdogs.” Schweizer recounted a conversation he had with a prominent Washington television personality in which he told Schweizer that he could not write the exposés Schweizer is known for because “these people are my neighbors” and “my kids hang out with their kids.”
Ultimately, Schweizer said that mentality allows journalists to let those in Washington’s insular permanent political class get away with various shenanigans and rackets.