Okay, the answer is "A prominent K Street lobbyist recently described this as 'diseased' and 'out of control.'"
In what he is calling an "epiphany" inspired by Hurricane Katrina, one of Washington's most senior and respected lobbyists is now calling for serious reform in our political system, saying that campaign financing has "gotten away from us."
Frederick L. Webber, a longtime denizen of Washington's lobbying corridor, showed up at work one day last week and found on his desk a dozen fundraising requests from members of Congress.
He threw them all in the trash.
...How could lawmakers be asking for money for their reelections, he asked himself, when thousands of Americans were desperate for aid along the Gulf Coast?
Webber has not only written a generous check to Katrina relief efforts, he has also been actively discussing campaign finance reform with colleagues across Washington. Among the changes he cites as necessary are increased limits on donations and a shorter campaign cycle. He is, to put it bluntly, advocating that our lawmakers be allowed to do their jobs instead of focusing on reelection.
"No sooner is someone elected or reelected than they start their fundraising right out of the box," Webber complained.
"Members of Congress are trapped. They have to continue to raise money if they're going to survive, and I sympathize with them," Webber added. "But I've seen a lot of people -- very good people -- leave Congress because they're tired of fundraising."
Beyond the complexities of the proposed reforms, Webber's message is quite simple:
He also made clear that the hurricane's devastation was what prompted his proselytizing. "All of a sudden I asked, 'What are the priorities here?'" Webber said in an interview. "It was an easy decision to make. I couldn't justify making those $500 to $2,500 [campaign] contributions. It just didn't fit."
Katrina taketh away and Katrina giveth.
She has destroyed much, but she has restored many ineffable treasures: our JINOs actually provided responsible coverage, many Americans have been shocked out of their dogmatic apathy and we have a reinvigorated debate about the role and scope of the federal government.
As only something of her magnitude can, Katrina has almost single-handedly diverted our country's focus. Thanks to her, poverty is, for the first time in possibly decades, at the forefront of the nation's consciousness. Katrina has shown the whole world the reality of Edwards' "two Americas" and has demonstrated, unequivocally, that Norquist's bathtub doesn't hold water.
Though she is long since dissipated, Katrina will forever be a part of this nation's psyche. She is already affecting politics in real-time and will potentially influence policy for a generation or more. She has brought us many important lessons and it is imperative that we heed them.
We owe it to New Orleans.