Politicians are cashing in on the government shutdown
Everybody loses. Except Washington, of course.
For the first time in 17 years, large portions of the government have been forced to close up shop, after Congress failed to pass what is normally a routine federal spending bill. As we enter the second day of the shutdown, the list of losers is long — and growing.
First, there are the roughly 800,000 federal employees who have been forced to take furloughs, or days off without pay. Then there are the federal contractors who stand to lose around $1.4 billion each day that a shutdown continues. Also, the communities surrounding the nation's now-closed national parks: Arizona, for instance, could lose millions each day as tourists are barred from Grand Canyon National Park.
That's not even to mention the kids with cancer who are being turned away by the National Institutes of Health. That's right: Kids with cancer.
Who isn't losing out? You guessed it: Members of Congress, who, unlike many other government employees, still get paid their $174,000 salaries. Watch as Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) duck the question of whether or not they would give up their checks during a government shutdown:
Not only are lawmakers getting paid, the groups that support them are raking in the donation dollars. On Monday, the last day of the third quarter of fundraising, the Democratic National Committee pulled in $850,000 from 30,000 donors — its biggest haul since the election in 2012, according to an unnamed DNC official who talked to The Hill.
Nobody leaked how much the Republican National Committee made in the lead-up to the government shutdown, although RNC spokesperson Kirsten Kukowski told Bloomberg that the party raised "a lot" of money. The RNC was probably wise in using a little discretion.
Individual lawmakers also made a push for cash before the shutdown.
"Speeches alone aren't going to win this fight for us," read a fundraising email from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who, along with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), was instrumental in orchestrating the shutdown. "The clock is ticking, and I need your help right now."
Vice President Joe Biden sent out a similar message asking Democrats for money, complaining that "the Republican Party is letting Ted Cruz lead their charge against Obamacare."
Speaking of Cruz, his polarizing 21-hour "filibuster" is the perfect example of how Washington can make money while the rest of the country loses.
"He has become the poster boy for the shutdown," Bill Allison, editorial director of lobbying watchdog the Sunlight Foundation, told Bloomberg. "You're looking for that lightning rod. For Democrats, he's public enemy No. 1, and for Republicans, he's Paul Revere leading the charge against the Affordable Care Act."
The Texas senator will likely benefit handsomely from the shutdown. Many of the conservative groups raising money to defeat ObamaCare — like the Club for Growth, the Senate Conservatives Fund, and the National Liberty Federation — are the same ones that helped Cruz and other Tea Party members get elected in 2012, and would likely bankroll a presidential run in 2016.
Yes, some politicians have been forced to postpone their fundraisers this week. But that won't make that big of a dent in their war chests.
While lobbyists of most industries would prefer to see the government up and running, "their clout has been eclipsed by groups that thrive on ideologically polarizing issues," wrote Lisa Mascaro at the Los Angeles Times, adding that rulings like Citizens United have "wiped out limits on how much groups can spend, dramatically increasing the influence of outside organizations on political campaigns."
That means while other federal employees are sitting at home without pay, their counterparts in Congress have plenty of reasons to keep them there.