U.S. Rep. David Jolly wants to require members of Congress to put more hours into what they were elected to do and less time into dialing for dollars.
The Pinellas County congressman and leading candidate for Florida's Republican U.S. Senate nomination is filing a bill that would make it illegal for members of the U.S. House and Senate to personally solicit campaign donations.
"Put down the phone and get to work" is how Jolly described the underlying goal of "The Stop Act," which would allow candidates to attend fundraisers and speak with donors, but not to ask specifically for money.
The proposal probably faces an uphill climb in a body where both parties relentlessly chase campaign contributions. But Jolly is kicking off a national media blitz this week aimed at peeling back the curtain on how much time members of Congress actually spend raising money, rather than solving problems and legislating.
"If the American people understood how much time their representatives were expected — in some cases required — to spend raising money, it would shock their conscience," Jolly told the Tampa Bay Times, noting that many members spend at least 30 hours a week raising money in call suites across the street from the U.S. Capitol.
"Whatever your priority is — if it's national security, if it's taxes, if it's immigration, if it's transportation, whatever it is — your frustration is that Congress is not doing anything about it," Jolly said. "But when you learn they're not doing anything about it because they're not even in their office, they're across the street at political headquarters making phone calls asking people for money, rather than doing the job that you sent them there to do? That's where I hope I can strike a chord nationally."
Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle told National Journal in 2014 that the average senator spends two-thirds of the time raising money for re-election, about $10,000 every day in office. When Louisiana Republican Rep. Rodney Alexander in 2013 announced he would not seek another term, he lamented that fundraising had become "the main business" of Congress, and "it's 24 hours a day." A PowerPoint presentation to incoming Democratic freshman in 2013 suggested that four hours a day be spent on fundraising "call time," another hour on "strategic outreach" such as press work and fundraisers, and another three or four hours on congressional work such as committee meetings, floor votes and constituent meetings.
So while others have bemoaned the all-consuming focus on money-raising by members of Congress, more often the criticism comes from members leaving or no longer involved in the process rather than sitting members such as Jolly.
First elected in 2014 to fill the unexpired term of his late former boss, C.W. Bill Young, Jolly said he hopes enough similarly frustrated colleagues on both sides of the aisle help give the bill momentum. He noted that campaigns could still raise money aggressively under the Stop Act, just not federal office-holders, including the president.
"The campaign still functions. Those who wish to provide resources can provide resources. Your finance director can still organize and raise money for the campaign committee. The idea is that a member of Congress is getting back to work," said Jolly, 43, noting that judicial candidates in Florida and more than two dozen other states are barred from directly asking for campaign donations.
Jolly is running to succeed Marco Rubio in a competitive U.S. Senate primary against U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Ponte Vedra Beach; Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami; and defense contractor Todd Wilcox of Orlando. Jolly pledges he won't personally ask for any donations to his Senate campaign or the super PAC promoting his Senate candidacy, FloridAmerican Conservatives.
Jolly, DeSantis and Lopez-Cantera each have super PACs raising unlimited donations to advance their candidacies.
Contact Adam Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @AdamSmithTimes.