Congressman’s “Drain the Swamp” book exposes Washington corruption: Amgen’s ‘largely unnoticed coup on Capitol Hill

By Congressman Ken Buck (R-CO)

 Congressman Ken Buck (R-CO) writes in his new book “Drain the Swamp:  How Washington Corruption is Worse Than You Think” how “Washington doesn’t’ represent the American people anymore, because the bureaucrats and elected officials in Washington pursue their own self-serving agenda rather than doing what is objectively right for the country.  The time for complacency about our federal government is long past.  We Americans must exercise our constitutional rights to come together and make vital decisions to save our republic.

“I pray that Americans will revive the founders’ spirit and take back our country…for the future of the United States of America, the last ‘best hope of earth.’”

Buck tells how if you want a plum Republican committee assignment in the House you must “pay to play” the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).  “Both parties use committee appointments to raise money.  If you want to serve on a committee in Congress, you have to pay for the privilege.  The amount varies depending on the committee and role.  Here’s how it works for Republicans.  A GOP House freshman member must raise $220,000 every two years.  I paid that amount to the NRCC in my first term in Congress, but now must pay more than double that amount.

“Some members of Congress spend at least half their time fundraising to keep their dues paid and campaign coffers full.”  To chair (a plum committee: Appropriations, Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, Rules, and Financial Services) “means you raise $1.2 million.   The higher your role in the House leadership, the higher the price tag:  Deputy Whip ($2.5 million); Conference Chair or Whip ($5 million); Majority Leader ($10 million); or Speaker ($20 million).

“Candidates ability to raise cash is largely influenced by how well they play the game with leadership, and if you don’t pay your dues, you can’t use the NRCC call suites (or other benefits like the NRCC recording studios) to raise money.

“Committee assignments, then, are less about qualifications than they are about cash—or, to put it in another way, cash is the chief qualification you need.  Aside from his outstanding policy credentials, Paul Ryan is certainly well qualified for his position—he raised more than $50  million in 2016.

“Serving on certain committees can also mean a lot of donations for representatives.  Generous campaign donations often flow to members of…committees.  For example, the financial, real estate, and insurance industries contributed more than $29 million to members of the Financial Services Committee, more than $16 million to members of Ways and Means, and more than $8 million to members of Energy and Commerce through Political Action Committees (PACs) or to individuals.  That’s one reason why Congressional committee assignments are so valuable to so many in the House.

“According to the New York Times:  Just two weeks after pleading guilty in a major federal fraud case, Amgen, the world’s largest biotechnology firm, scored a largely unnoticed coup on Capitol Hill:  Lawmakers inserted a paragraph into the ‘fiscal cliff’ bill that did not mention the company by name but strongly favored one of its drugs.  The language buried in Section 632 of the law delays a set of Medicare price restraints on a class of drugs that includes Sensipar, a lucrative Amgen pill used by kidney dialysis patients.

“The provision gives Amgen an additional two years to sell Sensipar without government controls. The news was so welcome that the company’s chief executive quickly relayed it to investment analysts. But it is projected to cost Medicare up to $500 million over that period.

“Amgen, which has a small army of 74 lobbyists in the capital, was the only company to argue aggressively for the delay, according to several congressional aides of both parties.

“I am not opposed to lobbyists. Everyone, both individuals and groups, has a right to petition Congress. But when the request is closely tied to donations and results in last-minute legislative perks, the people’s trust in government deteriorates. And because the fiscal cliff bill was forced upon Congress at the final hour, written in secret behind closed doors, most members didn’t find out about this change until it was too late, if they ever knew about it at all.

“House leadership doles out these influential committee assignments to those who play the game. After Speaker Boehner announced his retirement in 2015, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan met with the Freedom Caucus to earn our support for his effort to become Speaker. Paul met with about thirty of us in the Ways and Means Committee conference room, right off the House floor, while the press waited outside.

“We had a good conversation. When we told Paul that leadership was discriminating against conservatives, he asked us, “How many of you are on Ways and Means?” He was surprised that none of us were; clearly, he was not in the loop about Boehner’s war on conservatives.

“The real partisanship in Washington isn’t between political parties or about political principle; it is within parties, where leaders punish members who don’t play the game. In Congress, the consensus has been, it’s better to sink the nation with debt than rock the boat with reform. If we’re going to drain the swamp, we need to change that.”

To order Congressman Ken Buck’s book (now available in stores) see link:

Congressman Ken Buck is a Republican from Windsor, Colorado, who serves on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He is also a member of the Judiciary Subcommittees on Immigration and Border Security and Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations. One of three brothers, he worked his way through high school, college, and law school as a janitor, truck driver, furniture mover, and a ranch hand. After law school, he worked for Dick Cheney on the Iran-Contra Investigation and then became a prosecutor with the US Department of Justice. He has also served as a district attorney in Weld County, Colorado, and as a business executive at the Hensel Phelps Construction Company.


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