A make-up woman brushes a small lock of my hair so it drapes slightly over my forehead. That errant wisp tested well with focus groups of women. I glance at the TelePrompter, reciting silently the first few lines. My administrative aide, a former K Street lobbyist doing a two-year turn of “public service” before returning to her high six-figure income, reminds me to at least act humble. The director raises his hand: “five, four, three, two …” and points to me. I begin to speak to the many millions of registered voters in my state whom I have deluded and misled for three terms.
Good evening, my fellow Americans. I’m here tonight to announce that I will seek re-election to another term as your United States senator. I’d like to tell you why it’s important that you return me to a fourth term in office.
I have accumulated power on the Hill. Thanks to the hundreds of $5,000 checks I’ve given from my leadership PAC over the past 18 years to incumbents and challengers favored by our party, I have become influential. During this term, because our party finally enjoys majority power, I have been named chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. That means I can assure you that federal spending in our district will increase. (I smile briefly.) Yes, I know: Earmarks are frowned upon these days. I don’t need them. I can make calls to the heads of federal agencies, who are worried about their own budgets, and suggest to them that contracts be awarded to companies in our district — or their own budgets might take a hit.
I will expect those companies that get contracts to make donations to my official re-election committee. I need to raise about $15 million in this race. I’ll also expect donations to the super PAC that supports my political philosophy and mirrors my positions or denigrates the record of my opponent. I’ll follow the law, of course; I will not have any coordinating role in any super PAC. It is only coincidence that my official congressional spokeswoman has resigned from my office to head that super PAC. That we’ve been screwing ourselves silly on weekend fundraising trips will have no bearing on how that super PAC spends its money. So all those negative ads you’ll see about my nitwit, soft-on-defense, tax-and-spend opponent won’t be approved by me. I’ll have nothing to do with them. (I smile innocently.)
If you wish to contribute to that super PAC, you can be anonymous. It’s a 501(c)(4) nonprofit. So we take advantage of provisions in the tax code that allow it to not disclose its donors. We’ll keep your donations hidden. I’ll continue to oppose legislation that requires senators to more accurately disclose their financial assets. I know you wouldn’t like your salary or the worth of your home revealed; I’ll protect you from that by protecting mine.
I promise to work hard for you. I’ll be on the Hill from noon Tuesday until noon Thursday most weeks. I promise that I’ll make at least 80 percent of roll call votes. I’d make more, but I need to raise that $15 million. That’s more than $7,000 a day. So I’ll be across the street from the Capitol in a nongovernmental building in a private room calling donors. But don’t worry: My staff will write legislation (most of them have been lobbyists for the special interests affected). They’ll read legislation before the Senate and give me a one-page summary of these bills that run hundreds of pages, so I’ll be up to speed and know how to vote.
I’ll be sure my staff makes all the meetings of the Senate committees I’ve been appointed to. If there’s a celebrity testifying, I’ll be sure to be there.
I’ll keep in touch with you, my beloved constituents. I’ll be sure an auto-responder gets right back to you when you use the contact form on my Senate website to tell me your problem in 300 words or less. Need a flag flown over the Capitol? We’ve got a link for that. And I’ll mail you newsletters from time to time, all at government expense, extolling what I’ve been doing for you. When I’m back in the district, I’ll see you at town meetings. I may even shake your hand and greet you by name after an aide whispers it in my ear.
I’d like to see more of you. But most Thursday afternoons, I’ll need to fly to the West Coast or the East Coast for the weekend. But these are working trips, friends. Only a little golf from time to time. The coasts are where my biggest donors are. They’re in Silicon Valley or Hollywood. They’re on Wall Street. They’re in the securities and banking businesses, they’re lawyers, they’re big in real estate, they work for Big Pharma, they’re serious media and entertainment heavyweights. Hell, many of them are retired. These people have serious money. I’ll be sure to post videos on my campaign website so you can see me hobnobbing with elites. You won’t see me getting on and off their private jets, though. I need to appear to be just like you … one of the people. Now, don’t worry. I know these people. They have decent agendas. They, like me, just want what’s best for the American people. So you don’t need to know who they are. That’s why I’ll continue to obstruct campaign finance reform or anything else that requires transparency in the Senate.
Remember that leadership PAC I mentioned? I need to raise money for that, too. I need to keep handing out those $5,000 checks to incumbents and reputable challengers in our party. Why? To serve you better. When I run for re-election to my fifth term as your senator, I need to be sure we retain party control of the Senate. That way, I can become Senator Majority Leader. A lot of folks are going to owe me big time. Yes, I know, lots of folks will have given me lots of money. Now, you might think I owe them plenty. But don’t worry. I have ethics. (I wag my finger at the camera.)
I can guarantee you, my constituents, that every decision you hear about or every vote I cast will hardly ever be influenced by someone who gave me a lot of money and remains anonymous. Aren’t 501(c)(4) non-profits wonderful?
I’ll keep our party pure. Really. When I become majority leader (and I’ll probably stick around for a sixth term to enjoy the power, er, opportunity to serve), I’ll at least feign negotiating with the other party about the issues affecting the American people.
But we know, don’t we, that our party knows best what’s right for the American people. I’ll work to retain control of the Senate for our party to be sure that our way remains the only way. I may even find ways to channel money to our party’s friends in the House of Representatives to secure power there.
So expect me to be around for at least another 18 years. I’ve done well for you, so don’t start thinking about term limits. Public service, of course, has been a financial sacrifice for me; after all, I’m only paid $174,000 a year. I did it all for you.
Not to worry about my golden years, though. While I cannot make personal use of my leadership PAC while in office, I can take it with me when I retire. Should be about $3 million, maybe $4 million left in it.
So be sure to vote for me. And remember my slogan: If it’s good for me, it’s good for you.