Senator Mike Crapo (R, Idaho), is running for re-election. The Senator, a member of the teetotalling LDS church, was busted for drunk driving in 2012, but, hey, that was in Washington, D.C., and he’s told us all how sorry he is, and he swears he hasn’t had a drop to drink since. But that isn’t the blind spot WC is writing about.
After two full terms as a U.S. Senator, if he is re-elected and if the Republicans retain control of the U.S. Senate, Senator Crapo will be the chair of the very powerful Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. The committee oversees issues involving banks, Wall Street, real estate, insurance, securities, housing and economic policy, among many other things.
Running for the U.S. Senate is expensive, but luckily Senator Crapo has a reported campaign war chest of some $5 million. That’s pretty impressive for a guy from a small state with a comparatively small population. Where does it come from? Well, just 3% comes from individual Idahoans. The overwhelmingly largest percentage comes from the industries that Senator Crapo’s committee regulates.1
Top 5 Industries, 2011 – 2016, Crapo Campaign Committee
|Securities & Investment||$561,450||$251,100||$310,350|
So the folks spending the most to get Senator Crapo re-elected are the folks he will be regulating as a Banking Committee member and the committee he may very well chair.
When those hard issues involving individual citizens pillaged by the banking industry come before Senator Crapo, the banking industry will already own him. Half a million dollars buys you a lot of access, a lot of influence and, if push comes to shove, a lot of friendly votes. When the health insurance has to explain their huge rate increases to Senator Crapo’s committee, do you think he is going to ask any hard questions?
Congress is incredibly hypocritical about this. If a bureaucrat accepted half a million bucks from an industry he or she was charged with regulating, in order to help that bureaucrat keep his or her job, there would be a criminal indictment before you could say, “Dick Nixon.” It would absolutely be a crime. If a judge or justice took half a million from a party to a case he or she was hearing, there would be impeachment proceedings before you could say “John Roberts.” But not for Congressmen. Because Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court2 just know – wink, wink – that half a million bucks couldn’t possibly influence them or their decision-making process.
It’s institutionalized corruption. It’s absolutely bribery, and it is absolutely wrong. Senator Crapo’s blind spot is no different than most of the other members of the U.S. Senate. And the blind spot is threatening the integrity of our system of government.
Senator Crapo is a lawyer. If, as a lawyer, for any reason he accepted $500,000 from a guy he was suing he’d be disbarred immediately. It’s the worst kind of conflict of interest.
So why in the world do we impose a lower standard – really, no standard at all – on our most trusted elected officials?