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Out Here: Congressmen mum on fundraising

Published: Monday, Sept. 30, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

How much time do our congressmen spend fundraising?

I haven’t had much success in getting that information.

Last month, Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-East Moline, who represents Whiteside County, visited a Sterling factory. I got the chance to ask about her fundraising efforts. She didn’t give me much information. 

I asked her how many fundraising calls she makes per week. She said she didn’t know and wouldn’t give me an estimate. 

I also inquired about her fundraising events. She would only say, “My family has given me money. My former boss has given me money.”

It turns out that plenty of others have given her money as well; she has nearly a half million in her campaign coffers, according to her last financial report.

I have sent the same questions to the camp of Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, and it didn’t reply. In another instance, his spokesman declined to answer questions about fundraising. 

Bustos has a real race on her hands: Her predecessor, Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, wants a rematch.

Kinzinger, whose district includes Lee County, is in a district that’s practically guaranteed for the Republicans, so he’s likely to cruise to victory. Nonetheless, he has nearly $500,000 in his campaign account. 

Some people criticize reporters for focusing on issues such as fundraising, polls and campaigning at the expense of candidates’ positions on the issues. That’s fair, to an extent. 

But evidence shows that members of Congress spend plenty of their time fundraising at the expense of their congressional duties. So why shouldn’t we take a look at that part of their workdays?

In July, the Huffington Post got its hands on a PowerPoint presentation in which the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recommended that members spend 4 hours of a 10-hour day in Washington making fundraising calls.

Back home, they should devote 3 hours of an 8-hour day on fundraising, the committee advised. 

These are suggestions, so it’s doubtful that members spend nearly that much time calling for cash. But it gives an idea of the financial pressures congressmen face.

According to the Huffington Post, members of Congress often make their fundraising calls in an office of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee or in a similar one at the headquarters of the National Republican Congressional Committee. It’s illegal to seek campaign cash from congressional offices. 

“After votes in the House, a stream of congressmen and women can be seen filing out of the Capitol and, rather than returning to their offices, heading to rowhouses nearby on First Street for call time ...” the online site reports.

This is not the part of their jobs they like to talk about, as demonstrated by Kinzinger and Bustos. 

But some openly admit to making the calls. 

“What’s my experience with it? You might as well be putting bamboo shoots under my fingernails,” Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., told the Huffington Post. 

Perhaps Kinzinger and Bustos feel the same way. But they figure it’s best not to speak about it – fundraising may not work into their talking points. 

David Giuliani is a reporter for Sauk Valley Media. He can be reached at dgiuliani@saukvalley or at 800-798-4085, ext. 525. 

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