On Wednesday, CNN reporter Drew Griffin vowed that he would spend 2014 reporting and expanding on the groundbreaking work of Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large and Government Accountability Institute President Peter Schweizer that exposed how politicians in Washington, D.C. are legally extorting companies and individuals to subsidize their lavish lifestyles.
In a detailed segment on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, Griffin described the “pay to play” culture in the “Boomtown” that is Washington, D.C. that former Shell Oil President John Hofmeister said was “atrocious in the name of democracy.” Hofmeister said that the “corrupters have written the law to make it legal to the corruptees.”
Schweizer told Griffin that the “extortion” game played by politicians is largely legal and that “we need to somehow break the back of the ability of politicians to leverage their position to extract donations.” Schweizer said that powerful politicians “can make or break a company,” so industry leaders often “have to play ball because if they don’t bad things are going to happen.”
He said powerful lawmakers routinely “identify wealthy companies and industries” and basically “mark them for extortion” by introducing legislation or with threats that “put them in a position where they have to play ball.”
- How Democratic Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (D-CA) funneled at least $294,245 in campaign cash to herself by loaning her campaign money in 1998 at a staggering 18% interest rate and then letting the loan linger unpaid for 20 years
- Top-secret “price lists,” known officially as “party dues,” that include the donation totals members of Congress must raise to land top committee spots and chairmanships
- How leadership PAC loopholes allow members of Congress to convert campaign cash into lavish lifestyle upgrades for themselves and their family members
- Allegations that Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) bagged over $200,000 in donations from executives and companies prior to holding votes on three bills of critical importance to their industries
- How President Barack Obama used a political extortion tactic known as a “double milker bill” to “milk” millions in donations by pitting Obama’s friends in Hollywood against his supporters in Silicon Valley to extract cash from both
Hofmeister was one of Congress’s victims. He said he knew there was a “price to participate” in politics, but he never knew it was a such a “huge price” and an “endless process.” He noted that lawmakers dragged him in front of cameras for what he felt were theatrical hearings only to ask him for money in private. He said there is a “huge price to not pay the price of the campaign request,” in terms of “access” and “interest” of the lawmaker. Hofmeister said the “pay to play” culture put a “sickness in my stomach” and said he agreed “with the word extortion” in describing Washington’s culture.
Griffin reported that the rules governing PACs are so lax they have, as Schweizer detailed in his book, essentially become “slush funds” that politicians can use to enhance lifestyles, run up credit cards, and take lavish trips. He said he would examine how politicians legally extort Americans and the “actual business of getting rich in Congress” throughout the year. He referenced that more than half of lawmakers are now millionaires and many have children in lobbying businesses and award government contracts to cronies.
“Peter Schweizer claims this is all legalized extortion, and this is what we plan to focus on in the year ahead,” Griffin declared.
While introducing the segment, host Anderson Cooper referenced Michael Kinsley’s comment about how the real scandal in Washington, D.C. is what is actually legal, not what is against the law.