March 30, 2012

Take the Money and Run for Office

For anyone who has ever heard the term "Washington insider" and felt outside — we are with you. So this week, we go inside the rooms where the deals get made, to the actual moment that the checks change hands — and we ask the people writing and receiving the checks what, exactly, is the money buying?


Host Ira Glass plays a voicemail containing something very common but very rare to hear: an elected official directly asking a lobbyist for money. (4 minutes).
Act One

The Hamster Wheel

Planet Money's Alex Blumberg and NPR Congressional correspondent Andrea Seabrook take a tour through the world of money and politics, discovering just how much time members of Congress spend raising money and which committee assignments yield the biggest campaign donations. They also try to figure out what all this money is actually buying.

For an interactive map of Washington DC fundraiser locations, charts of the best and worst types of fundraisers, and other online extras, visit Planet Money's website. (27 minutes).

Act Two


Everything about political fundraising is changing right now, because of the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. Since then, "Super PACs" have been able to funnel huge amounts of anonymous money into races. Producer Ben Calhoun shares the example of Ami Bera, whose run for Congress was dramatically affected by money from a Super PAC. (15 minutes).