Opinion
10:34 am
Tue April 8, 2014

With Michigan members of Congress hitting the exit, replacements scramble for money

Congressmen don’t stay on the job forever, though it sometimes seems like it.

This year will be the last for Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, first elected in 1978, and Rep. John Dingell, D-Michigan, the all-time longevity champ, who has represented a Detroit-area district since 1955.

Their retirements, while momentous, weren’t very surprising. Indeed, Carl Levin announced that he wouldn’t run for re-election more than a year ago. Far more shocking was the sudden decision by two mid-Michigan Republican Congressmen to bow out.

Both Rep. Dave Camp, R-Michigan, and Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, had safe seats, a fair amount of seniority, and are youngish men by congressional standards. Yet within the last few days, both said they wouldn’t run for re-election.

That set off something of a mad scramble.

Candidates have to file petitions to run no later than two weeks from today, and for the last few days both districts have been filled with people trying to run, and others trying to decide.

Some are definitely in, such as former State Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, who Rogers endorsed as his heir apparent yesterday. State Sen. Joe Hune, R-Hamburg Township, is apparently trying to decide.

What most of the candidates on the fence are struggling with is money.

In Camp’s district, State Sen. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, is in, as is Republican financier Paul Mitchell.

Others are still on the fence.

Running for Congress is a pretty big deal, from a lifestyle standpoint, not just a political one. Members have to live in two places, which is never easy if you have small children.

You are always on the go and have to struggle to satisfy different constituencies, but what the media seldom reports is that these hassles aren’t the real reason some people won’t run.

What most of the candidates on the fence are struggling with is money. Can they get the money needed to make a competitive race?

And these days, the amount of money needed to get elected to any seat in Congress is astronomical – and obscene.

Congressmen make $174,000 a year for a job that last two years.

Do you know what it costs to get there? Last year, the average successful candidate spent $1.6 million, but Michigan is more expensive than most states.

Though Dave Camp has a safe seat, he spent more than $3 million to win re-election four years ago. Mike Rogers spent $1.8 million.

I'm not suggesting that most candidates are guilty of overtly criminal behavior. It is just that in my experience, people who give you money almost always want something for it...

This year, whoever wins those seats will spend more, because they will also have primary challenges. The cost will go up in Rogers’ Lansing-area district because it is at least possible that a Democrat could win.

Those sums are more than ridiculous; they are to me a sign that our entire system is broken and corrupt.

I’m not suggesting that most candidates are guilty of overtly criminal behavior. It is just that in my experience, people who give you money almost always want something for it, whether that means fixing your car or casting a vote. Everybody in politics understands this.

If that isn’t corrupting influence, I don’t know what is.

We now live in a world where a decent person can no longer be elected to represent us without being bankrolled by the super rich.

If that doesn’t worry you, I don’t know what would.