60 Minutes: Nolan laments telemarketer Congress

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN8) was featured on "60 Minutes" on Sunday, April 24.

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN8) was featured on “60 Minutes” on Sunday, April 24.

Last night U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN8) was featured on the venerated CBS news magazine show “60 Minutes” for his work on campaign reform. Nolan is co-sponsoring the STOP Act, co-authored by Florida Republican Rep. David Jolly and others, which would prevent federally elected officials from directly soliciting funds.

You can see the story here:

Since his election to Congress in 2012, Nolan has lamented the encouraged practice of members of Congress spending 30 hours a week doing fundraising calls from Democratic and Republican call centers near the Capitol. This is a dramatically different practice than when he was in Congress the first time in the 1970s.

Nolan’s GOP opponent Stewart Mills countered Nolan’s turn on 60 Minutes with his own attack on the Congressman’s PAC donations. What wasn’t shared was the precise amount of time Mills, or any other candidate, spends dialing for dollars.

In observing politics up close at the state level, I’d argue the single best way to evaluate a legislator is how they spend their time. The voting record matters, but not as much as how members marshal their position to create connections and opportunities for their constituents.

Frankly, any remotely functional legislator can craft a voting record that matches their district’s political index. Further, they can do so while engaging in constant political squabbles, playing chess (or more often, checkers) in the halls of power.

The best legislators talk to people who don’t agree with them, build relationships, read and research. Their voting record might be similar to one of the party oafs, but the tiny ways it is different are incredibly meaningful.

The only problem is that there is no real incentive to be good at your job in Congress (or the state legislature). The incentive is to win, so you can keep and expand your power and influence. Eventually, we are all told, seniority and “the perfect election,” where one side sweeps everything and changes the world, will bring manna from heaven down to any given constituency in the nation.

Yeah, it doesn’t really work like that. The result of that thinking has given us the partisan paralysis that has come to define current American politics.

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