Lawmakers Abusing Leadership PACs in Crosshairs of Schweizer, '60 Minutes'
Breitbart News Managing Editor Wynton Hall appeared on Breitbart News Sunday to discuss a 60 Minutessegment that featured Government Accountability Institute president and Breitbart News’ Senior Editor-at-Large Peter Schweizer’s expose of leadership PACs that lawmakers in Congress are legally allowed to use as slush funds.
As Breitbart News has reported, Schweizer’s new book, Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets, will rock Capitol Hill this week with stunning revelations about how Republicans and Democrats use mafia-like tactics to extort political contributions. Schweizer’s last book, Throw Them All Out, shocked the political establishment and mobilized Americans against Washington’s permanent political class. It forced Congress to pass the STOCK Act, which banned insider trading by lawmakers in Congress.
Appearing on Breitbart News Sunday with Breitbart News Executive Chairman and host Stephen K. Bannon, Hall said staffers for lawmakers in Congress know they do not want to be in the “crosshairs of Steve Kroft and Peter Schweizer.” He noted that the last time Schweizer and Kroft teamed up, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was exposed for obtaining inside information about VISA before making stock purchases, while Rep. Spencer Baucus (R-AL) had to step down from a leadership post in Congress.
Baucus announced in September that he will not seek re-election. Kroft won a prestigious journalism award for his work as well.
Hall said the leadership PACs are usually not used for re-election efforts and instead serve as a “crony piggy bank” used to “dole out favors” and “buy votes.” In discussing the 60 Minutes exposé that revealed “what is going on with leadership PAC corruption,” which Hall described as “one of the dirtiest little secrets in Washington,” he said that though the PACs are supposedly meant to help “members of your party,” there are “sneaky loopholes” that allow lawmakers to have “lifestyle upgrades” that are “eye-opening.”
Though Hall noted lawmakers are not allowed to hire family members for congressional staff, there is “no rule that prevents” lawmakers from taking donor money and “handing it to their own family members” by “routing money to family members through their leaderships PACs.”
In the 60 Minutes segment, Schweizer said that though regular campaign funds cannot be used for personal expenses, “like all things in Washington, the devil is in the details, and loopholes are usually put in place for a reason.” He noted that Leadership PACs are a way for lobbyists and special interest groups to influence lawmakers in Congress and are now the “second largest political revenue stream for members of Congress.”
As 60 Minutes detailed, “nearly every congressman and senator has a leadership PAC, not just the leaders. And they are used to solicit contributions from friends and supporters in order to advance their political agendas, their careers and, in many cases, their lifestyle.”
“You can use them for babysitting, paying for babysitters. You can use them for paying for car service. You can use them for travel. Nobody’s really checking to see whether this is personal or legitimate business expense,” Schweizer told the program.
For instance, in 2006, “North Carolina senator and presidential candidate John Edwards used his leadership PAC to pay his mistress Rielle Hunter $114,000 to make a campaign video.” Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) “spent $32,000 hosting a tour of California wineries for a group of contributors from the defense industry, which he has some oversight of.” Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ) “used $16,000 from his leadership PAC ‘the committee to strengthen America’ to fly his family to Scotland, ostensibly to attend the wedding of a friend that he was thinking about hiring as a political consultant.”
According to the 60 Minutes investigation, there are reportedly “75 members of Congress who have hired members of their family to work on their campaign and paid them with political contributions.” For instance, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) had “six family members on the campaign payroll — daughter, daughter’s mother in-law, three grandchildren and a grandchild in-law.” He paid them “a total of $304,000 over the past two election cycles.”
Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA), “who had just retired midterm, after winning a campaign with no Democratic opposition last year,” paid his “two daughters a total of $130,000.”
“Congress has created this domain that allows them to decide whether something is ethical or whether something is good,” Schweizer said. “And it’s another example, unfortunately, where the rules that apply to the rest of us don’t really apply to members of Congress.”
The most egregious example may be the case of Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA), who “loaned herself $150,000 and over a 12-year period took in $228,000 in interest” by consistently loaning money to her campaigns.
She claimed she had to “withdraw $150,000 from an investment account to lend it to her campaign” because banks would allegedly not lend to her because she is a woman and a minority. Napolitano is a member of the Hispanic Caucus in Congress.
“Well, you don’t go out and publicize that, but they know that I had a campaign debt,” she said of her making interest off of her own campaign.
Hall noted that there are rules in the private sector against nepotism that prevents money from being funneled to family members, but such rules do not exist when it comes to leadership PACs.
Hall noted that Washington is the country’s preeminent “Boomtown” because government has expanded as there is “money in leveraging” and “cash in complexity.” He denounced how tax dollars and corporate money are “cross-pollinating” government and noted that the free market needed to be protected.
Hall said there is a difference between being “pro-free markets” and pro-big business. He said even the left may be getting that by “looking at the implosion of Obamacare” and how the creation of the malfunctioning exchange websites was rife with cronyism.
Schweizer’s investigation revealed that lawmakers do indeed use the PACs to live a “jet-set lifestyle” of fine wine and limousines legally financed by the leadership PACs. Hall noted that lobbyists and special interest groups can easily donate money to leadership PACs to buy influence and said Representatives can even go on fundraising blitzes months before they retire and give themselves a “nice exit check” because the money from the leadership PACs can be spent even after a lawmaker dies.
He said Schweizer’s book “may be the tip of a very large spear.” Bannon said some of the revelations in the book will be a “tsunami” and urged listeners to “hang on tight.”