Federal Dysfunction

Member Group : Reflections

"The likelihood of lawsbeing enforced is slim," said Democrat Commissioner Ann M. Ravel, chairwoman ofthe Federal Election Commission, in a recent New York Times interview regardingmoney being raised and spent in the 2016 presidential election — which isprojected to generate a record $10 billion in expenditures.
"I never want to giveup, but I’m not under any illusions," explained Ravel. "People think the FEC isdysfunctional. It’s worse than dysfunctional."
In the wake of "the 2010Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case — it
allowed corporationsand unions to spend unlimited funds in support of political
candidates — thelines drawn by campaign finance laws have become blurred and bent," reportedthe Times.

"The few rules that areleft, people feel free to ignore," contended Ellen L.
Weintraub, a Democratcommissioner at the Federal Election Commission.
Lee Goodman, aRepublican commissioner, maintained that Congress set up the FEC to cause gridlock. "This agency is functioning as Congress intended," he said,
regarding the six-member commission, evenly divided between Democrat and
Republican appointees.

With yearly spending by the federal government equal to 22 percent of annual GDP, or over a fifth ofevery dollar in total U.S. spending, a comment by P.J. O’Rourke forewarns ofthe link between high levels of government spending and high levels of briberyand corruption: "When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, thefirst thing to be bought and sold are legislators."

As a case in point, Hillary Clinton spoke in a 2014 interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer about the direfinancial straits of the Clintons when their time at the White House was endingin December 2000. The Clintons, Hillary told Sawyer, were "dead broke" as theywere departing from America’s most expensive public housing.

"You have no reason to remember, but we came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt,"explained Hillary — in no small part because of Bill’s hefty legal bills. "Wehad no money when we got there, and we struggled to piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea’s education."
An fact-check analysis byTampa Bay Times reporter Jon Greenberg, however, provided a bottom-line rating of "Mostly False" regarding Mrs. Clinton’s claim of monetary hardship.

"In 1999, they bought afive-bedroom home in Chappaqua, N.Y., for $1.7 million,"
reported Greenberg."In December 2000, just as they were leaving the White House,
they bought aseven-bedroom house near Embassy Row in Washington, D.C. The price was $2.85 million.

The New York Times reported that the Clintons put $855,000 down on the Washington mansion.

Additionally, "Hillary Clinton herself did quite well in 2001," reported Greenberg. "The book publisher Simon & Schuster paid her $2.84 million in royalties. By 2004,the Clintons had erased their debts and Hillary Clinton was ranked the10th-wealthiest member of the Senate, with a net worth between $10 million and$50 million."

"This hardly fits thecommon meaning of ‘dead broke,’" reported Greenberg.

Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics and the B. KennethSimon
professor of free enterprise at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.
Ralph R. Reiland
E-mail: [email protected]
Phone: 412-527-2199 or 412-884-4541