Corruption on Capitol Hill is “worse than you think,” Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., insists.
“When you first get here, you think that you are in some sort of fairy-tale novel,” Buck said. “They wine and dine you and they show you just exactly what it’s like if you play the game. It’s a wonderful life.”
Things quickly change, however, if “you don’t play the game.”
“If you don’t play the game … it becomes a much less conformable existence here,” Buck said.
Buck, who has served Colorado’s 4th Congressional District since 2015, previewed his new book, “Drain the Swamp: How Washington Corruption is Worse Than You Think,” published on Tuesday.
Chapters in Buck’s book include “Why Washington is a Swamp,” “Play the Game–Or Else,” “Beating the Beltway Bullies,” and “What You Can Do To Drain the Swamp.”
Buck said his book addresses corruption present in government today that he was not prepared for after being elected to Congress in 2014.
“One of the things that I found startling when I got here is that you have to pay dues to be on a committee,” Buck said.
During the time he served on the House Judiciary Committee, Buck said he had to pay periodic dues of $200,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign committee of the House of Representatives.
Now, as a member of the House Rules Committee, Buck’s periodic dues are $450,000.
The obligation to pay dues, Buck said, forces members of Congress to hold fundraising receptions and encourages corrupt influences from special interest organizations who attend the fundraisers.
“Who comes to those receptions with checks?” Buck said. “Lobbyists, special interests that want something in return. So there is a game that goes on that you owe the party money and you are expected to vote with the chairman and you are expected to help special interests groups in Washington, D.C.”
Buck said there is also a significant amount of corruption in how Congress justifies spending for new project or programs.
“In the book, I list very specific ways that we need to change the incentives that we have in Congress,” Buck said. “I talk about … what we call ‘pay–fors.’ When we have new spending, we find ways to pay for that new spending program.”
Some of the ways Congress could pay for a new project or program are through tax increases or cuts to other programs, both of which are unlikely, Buck said.
Instead, Congress “makes up” sources of revenue.
So we pass a transportation bill, and in the transportation bill we say that we’re going to sell oil in a strategic petroleum reserve to pay for that transportation bill. Now, what’s fascinating about this is that the average price that that oil was purchased at is $76. The price when we sold that oil was $48. Only in government is that considered a profit.
An issue with this system, Buck said, is that revenues from “pay–fors” have already been accounted for.
“One of the problems is that that barrel of oil that was used in the transportation bill as a ‘pay–for’ was already sold twice before,” Buck said.
This form of governing, Buck said, is irresponsible.
“If everything’s been paid for for so long, how did we get $20 trillion dollars in debt?” Buck said.
In an effort to bring transparency to the “pay–for” phenomenon, Buck introduced a bill last Thursday that would require the Office of Management and Budget to track and report the revenue that “pay–fors” actually bring.
“One of the bills that I just recently dropped would ask the Office of Management and Budget to do an annual report to Congress so it is available to the American people on how much revenue did those ‘payfors’ generate,” Buck said.
Buck’s goal, he said, is to educate the American people about the corruption in government so they are not as naive as Buck found himself when he started working in Congress.
“Before I got here, I knew that D.C. was broken, I didn’t know the specifics,” Buck said. “I’m hoping that by giving the American public the specifics, we actually have the record out there just … to make sure that people are aware.”