The Washington Beltway is a war zone. It is the battleground over
what the United States government does and what it does not do.
It does a great deal.
send tens of millions of dollars each year to Beltway resistance
organizations. Some of them are called think tanks. They are dedicated
mainly to getting the federal government to do other things, or
else to do evil things without spending as much money. These organizations
promote this idea: "Running government like a business." Whenever
you hear this, think of a serious business: Cosa Nostra.
I am going
to show you a simple technique to keep from wasting your money by
donating it to an ineffective Beltway resistance organization. Go
to its Website and read half a dozen of its press releases. See
if the outfit has links to newspapers that published the release.
If there are none, then the press release was useless as an opinion-changer.
It was useful only as a fund-raiser.
This is the
key fact that one one has told you: Most press releases are written
in order to raise funds from politically naive donors.
I am about
to analyze a press release. It was issued by an obscure right-wing
outfit that pulls in millions of dollars of donations each year.
It is no better and no worse than most such outfits. They accomplish
nothing politically. They provide high incomes for their senior
If you will
use my analysis as a model to learn what to look for in a fund-raising
press release vs. an public opinion-changing press release, you
will save yourself money.
DOWN THE DRAIN
I offer a supreme
challenge: before you donate money to a Beltway resistance organization,
find verifiable evidence that its position papers and press releases
have ever stopped any bill from becoming law. Yes, it opposed some
bill that did not pass way back when, but what you cannot find is
that this outfit was responsible for stopping the bill from becoming
I am not talking
about a single-issue organization that represents a voting bloc,
such as gun owners. These single-issue outfits mobilize grass roots
support that can stop a bill from becoming law. I am talking about
a broad-ranged conservative outfit that produces lots of position
papers and press releases. These outfits have zero effect on what
happens on Capitol Hill, let alone what gets published in the Federal
Register's 82,000 pages each year.
I was in Washington
in 1976, when I was on Ron Paul's staff. These outfits had no effect
then, either. But there were fewer of them. They absorbed less money.
greatest conservative political victory in the last 40 years was
stopping the Equal Rights Amendment. Phyllis Schlafly did that.
Her Eagle Forum is not headquartered in Washington. It is in Alton,
Illinois. The ERA was not defeated in Washington. It was defeated
in state legislatures. It was a grass roots opposition. We read
Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was a proposed amendment to the United
States Constitution. The ERA was originally written by Alice Paul
and, in 1923, it was introduced in the Congress for the first time.
In 1972, it passed both houses of Congress and went to the state
legislatures for ratification. The ERA failed to receive the requisite
number of ratifications before the final deadline mandated by Congress
of June 30, 1982 expired and so it was not adopted.
The best statement
ever written on how little effect Beltway resistance has achieved
was written by Paul Weyrich in
1999. He was the most effective Beltway resister there ever
was. He founded the Free Congress Foundation and the Committee for
the Survival of a Free Congress. Here is his assessment after three
decades of fund-raising.
looking at the long history of conservative politics, from the defeat
of Robert Taft in 1952, to the nomination of Barry Goldwater, to
the takeover of the Republican Party in 1994, I think it is fair
to say that conservatives have learned to succeed in politics. That
is, we got our people elected.
did not result in the adoption of our agenda. The reason, I think,
is that politics itself has failed. And politics has failed because
of the collapse of the culture. The culture we are living in becomes
an ever-wider sewer. In truth, I think we are caught up in a cultural
collapse of historic proportions, a collapse so great that it
simply overwhelms politics.
The war will
not won or lost inside the Beltway. It will won or lost at the grass
roots level in the souls of men. For most political purposes, it
will be won or lost over the battle between two commandments.
Thou shalt not steal, except by majority vote.
With this in
mind, let me examine a single press release. This press release
was written for only one reason: to justify to donors the high salaries
of the senior employees. It says: "See this? We're active."
Here is an
unbreakable rule: Any outfit that issues boring press releases
should not be supported. If the press releases are filled with
inside-the-Beltway jargon, you can be sure that the entire outfit
is useless to everyone except the overpaid senior staff.
release is aimed at earmarks. Earmarks are pure pork. They are riders
to bills, usually unrelated to the bill. They spend money in home
districts. They will never end. That's what Washington wants: pork.
That's what voters want.
To read a pretty
good press release on pork, see
In stark contrast
is the following press release. It was sent to media outlets, which
ignored it. It had zero effect. No one who has any experience in
Washington could imagine anything else. This is just an exchange
of digits: press release for donations. The outfit can tell its
donors that it is Doing Something Important, and the donors can
fall for it. The futility of all this should be apparent.
release is written in BeltwaySpeak. I have modified the names. It
D.C.) Today, Joe Schmoe, president of the Council for Absorbing
Naive Conservative Donors' Funds, sent a letter to the United
States House and Senate, urging lawmakers to resist the temptation
to end the ongoing earmark moratorium. The letter, which came
in response to reports that Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) has proposed
a return to earmarking, reads in part:
any earmark would have been enough to prove that Congress violated
the earmark moratorium that was established in the House and Senate
at the beginning of the 112th Congress, there are many such examples
that will be highlighted in CAGW's 2012 Congressional Pig Book
which will be released on April 17. The 2012 Pig Book will show
that while the practice of earmarking still lingers, Congress
has made significant progress toward reducing the number and cost
Can you imagine
any newspaper running a story filled with this verbal sludge? Of
course not. The press release is targeted at naive donors, not the
often hear from their elected officials that earmarks are good
and bring back federal dollars to their district.
nothing about earmarks. They don't know their Congressman's name,
let alone know about earmarks.
approximately 60 percent of earmarks has gone to the majority
party, while 40 percent has gone to the minority party. Awarding
taxpayer funds on the basis of political power instead of merit
is a deceptive practice that encourages backroom deal-making,
vote swapping, and other political game-playing.
So? What else
is new? What else has been new since (say) 1789?
addition to inviting fraudulent behavior, earmarking diverts lawmakers'
attention from important national business, like controlling the
nation's ballooning $15.6 trillion debt. At one point, many congressional
offices had one or more staffers dedicated solely to procuring
Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) have sponsored
S. 1930, the Earmark Elimination Act, which is intended to build
upon and make permanent the current earmark moratorium that is
set to expire at the end of 2012. Unfortunately, this legislation,
which was offered as an amendment to the STOCK Act in February,
failed in a 40 to 59 vote.
has made significant progress under the current earmark moratorium.
I strongly urge you to support S. 1930 and work with your colleagues
to ensure that earmarks never return. Any attempt to revive the
practice of earmarking will be detrimental to taxpayers, members
of Congress, and to the entire legislative process. The earmark
ban has already given lawmakers more time to devote their attention
to critical issues instead of to special interests, and has saved
taxpayers billions of dollars that would otherwise be squandered
on frivolous projects."
staffer who composed this pathetic press release ought to be fired.
That the president of the outfit would pretend to have written it
indicates that he also ought to be fired.
is this tag, which is puffery to impress naive donors.
for Absorbing Naive Conservative Donors' Funds (CANCDF) is the
lobbying arm of Citizens in Favor of Mindless Donating, the nation's
largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating
waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.
publishes useful statistics on government waste. Fine. But for that,
it could be run from Boondocksville, Indiana (or Alton, Illinois).
It would take a total staff of eight people: three researchers,
a secretary, a fund-raiser, a president, an accountant, and a skilled
person to write press releases that newspapers might actually run.
But nobody would donate to it. "It's clearly not relevant.
It's headquarters are in Boondocksville, Indiana." So, the
outfit hires lots of people, gets a Beltway address, and sends out
press releases like this one.
It has not
worked to stop earmarks. It will not work. But the senior employees
will have lifetime careers. And donors feel good. Their money is
helping to "roll back waste in government."
ends. It's symbiosis. It's all about this.