Congressman John Carter must go even if I have to run against him

I want you to think about something for just a moment.   Who would you say is the member of Congress – House or Senate – that is most closely associated with ethics reform in Congress? I couldn’t think of anyone either, so I googled it.

All I got was a bunch of hits about the Office of Congressional Ethics. But that’s just a review board that looks at allegations of misconduct. As Steve Kroft said on CBS’s 60 Minutes:

“It’s not what’s illegal in Washington that matters most. It’s what’s legal.”

What’s legal in the United States congress is astounding. So let’s pause just a moment and talk a look at what may be the finest piece of journalism to come out of network television in years. This is Kroft’s excellent report that first aired in 2013 and entitled: “Washington’s Open Secret – Profitable PACs.” If you’ve never seen it, prepare to be angry.

If you watched, you saw a nice primer on how members of Congress work hard for themselves and not for you.

It actually seems as if there is no one in Congress who doesn’t soon get “adjusted” to the Washington way of thinking. Remember when Trent Lott, a respected senator, became a lobbyist?  Lott bragged about how he gets members of Congress to see things the lobbyists’ way.

U.S. Rep. John Carter (Wikipedia)

Somebody should run for Congress on a platform of reforming Congress.

It would have to be someone totally impervious to the money that members make on the side, the inside information they often use to get rich, the sexual affairs they have, the lies they tell, the lobbyists they are controlled by and so on.

I can’t tell you that person even exists. Maybe he or she doesn’t, and maybe nobody is man enough or woman enough to go to DC and hold his or her head up high.

Even as I write there is an investigation underway into Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) for using inside information on the coronavirus to sell off stock to avoid the losses that you and I may have suffered. We’re not special like he is. But other members of Congress are special – or so they think.

Even a short list of names will conjure up vision of total corruption: John Murtha, Edward M. Kennedy, Bob Menendez, Blake Farenthold, Al Franken, Bill Jefferson, Hillary Clinton, Al Rangel, Harry Reid, and on and on. The vast majority never paid a price. Kennedy even left a women for dead at Chappaquiddick, but was so special that he went on to become the Lion of the Senate.

Corruption in Congress has got to stop.

That brings me to my congressman, U.S. Rep. John Carter, who is a temperamental liar who hasn’t amounted to much in Congress, except to those donors and lobbyists who control him.

Front side of Carter’s “Champion” brochure. Scan by Lynn Woolley for WBDaily.

Here’s what triggered this column.

On Saturday, I received a slick brochure from Rep. Carter. It contained the usual bragging about what a great congressman he is, but something was different about it. So I looked for the notice about who paid for the brochure and the mailing. I suspected some lobbying group sent it on his behalf.

Sure enough. A lobbying group with the classy sounding name “Alliance for Patient Access.” Apparently, this high-sounding organization has deemed Congressman Carter a “champion” for seniors. They even presented him a spiffy little glass or plastic award for his desk! That called for some investigation.

Here’s the back of the brochure with the “paid for” statement.

It was easy to find the website of the Alliance For Patient Access.

The “about section” says this:

The health care providers who make up the Alliance for Patient Access prioritize patient-centered care. 

So what? The “patent-centered care” movement has been underway for some time in most hospitals. I know because I’ve written dozens of radio and TV commercials and print ads about patient-centered care.

It also turns out that the AfPA has awarded “Champion” desk plaques to a number of congressmen, and certainly not just to John Carter. I found one on their page that was awarded to Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming. His brochure and ad looked exactly like Carter’s. As for patient-centered care, that seems like a bare minimum; a healthcare organization that is not patient-centered is like Stephen King not being story-centered.

Barrasso’s ad looks a lot like Carter’s. From the AfPA website.

So the AfPA is buying little chunks of members of Congress by putting ads in local papers and paying for the brochures to be mailed out to constituents prior to an election. You have to wonder: who are these people and what do they want in return? I checked.

A website called nonprofitquarterly.org carried a column by Erin Rubin entitled:

Alliance for Patient Access: Not Even Trying Subtlety

In this article, she asks several questions about non-profit advocacy groups like the one Congressman Carter has chosen to associate with.

  • Can they avoid conflicts of interest in financial dealings?
  • Are all proper disclosures made to the IRS?
  • Do they meet obligations of transparency?

In the case, of Alliance for Patient Access, she gave it a scathing report, quoting the Associated Press:

Richard Lardner of the Associated Press reports that the Alliance for Patient Access (AfPA), a nonprofit “dedicated to ensuring patient access to approved therapies and appropriate clinical care,” is in fact tied so closely to the pharmaceutical industry that their ability to serve their claimed constituents—patients—is deservedly under scrutiny.

It gets worse. Apparently, the head of this non-profit is also the head of a lobbying group.

Brian Kennedy serves as both the executive director of AfPA and the president of Woodberry Associates, a lobbying group; he also used to serve as a top official at the Republican Governors Association. Woodberry and AfPA not only share a leader, they share office space in Washington. Though Kennedy draws no salary as an executive director, AfPA paid nearly $250,000 in 2017 to consultants Gavin Clingham and Amanda Conschafter—names that match those of two consultants who work for Woodberry.

You may say: but this is a Republican lobbying group. That doesn’t make any difference to me and it shouldn’t to you. They’ve just done a huge favor of Congressman Carter, and it makes me wonder if he will work just a little bit harder to implement their agenda.

According to this article, AfPA appears to be tied to the pharmaceutical industry. For sure, that industry makes the antibiotics and other treatments we depend on (in China, but, at least they make them), but I do not want my congressman’s hands tied in any case.

Rubin’s article also covers a similar award handed out to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) who, according to her, clings to the AfPA line on his website. You can read the article and decide for yourself. Personally, I’d prefer John Carter to socially distance this outfit like he’d avoid coronavirus. But the lure of a free brochure in total praise of John Carter may just be too nice a gift to turn down.

(Congressmen may not want to listen to your opinions, but if you’re heaping praise on them, they will listen all day long.)

Congressman John Carter is a disaster on immigration.

I used to really think this guy was representing me – but then, he came out of the closet regarding a secret group – a congressional Gang of 8 — he had been working with to solve immigration, all behind closed doors.   I suppose the idea was to work across the aisle with people like Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) who essentially advocated for Mexico when he was a Chicago-area congressman.

I didn’t like the idea of compromising with a congressman like Gutierrez and I didn’t like the secrecy. These policy discussions should be held in public. Carter and other Republicans eventually dropped out as reported my McClatchey’s Washington Bureau on September 20, 2013, blaming Barack Obama.

Carter and [Sam] Johnson [R-TX] cited Obama’s handling of his health care law, accusing the president of changing provisions “with the stroke of a pen.” They also said he was cherry-picking parts of current immigration law to enforce. The practice, they said, has “irrevocably damaged our efforts of fixing our broken immigration system.”

But Congressman Carter never wanted to admit how bad the illegal immigration situation had become. I began to part ways with him in August of 2013. The local Tea Party put on a immigration town hall in the village of Salado, Texas with John Carter as the featured guest. Before he spoke, the group screened a documentary entitled “They Come To America” which laid out the problems and the lack of political will to solve them.

When he took the podium, Carter essentially dismissed the film, and quickly moved to the subject of how hard he had been working. He talked about the secret group that later ended up as a failure. He laid a lot of blame on Democrats and Obama, but failed to note that when Republicans were in charge under George W. Bush, they did nothing. He admonished the crowd and told them to keep quiet.

Ben Barrack (of WBDaily) and I were there. You can see me in the orange shirt in the video, just to the right of Carter. As the meeting progressed and Carter’s message was not being well received, Barrack and I vocally disputed his numbers of how many illegals are in the country. Carter became agitated and called us “orange-shirted demagogues.”

I showed up at that meeting generally supporting Carter. I left it as a non-supporter. I wanted him to come on my radio show as he had done dozens of times before, but those times were when he expected me to agree with everything he said. So he refused to come on. And then he lied to me.

This took place in the upstairs meeting room of the Bell County Expo Center prior to a Republican fundraiser that was held shortly thereafter. I had been asked to perform my song “Take a Stand” that I had written with the Tea Party in mind. Carter and I were both in the upstairs room before heading down to the big hall where the main event was to take place.

I walked over to him, told him that disagreements are all right, and that I would like to have him on the show to discuss it. I essentially told him that I would not try to make him look bad, but that we needed a frank discussion for my audience to hear. He told me that he would come on at any time.

As I recall, we shook hands on that, and he told me to set it up with his staff – most of whom I knew pretty well. I never got past them.

As he does in so many cases, Carter had it both ways. He was willing to come on, but his staff was there to provide a barrier – stronger than the ones we have along the border. This became another brick in the wall Carter was building between us. I do not like being lied to or pandered to. He should have just refused to come on from the start.

If I could no longer talk with Carter on-air, Rep. Luis Gutierrez could. In April of 2013, he was on tour with Evan Smith of the Texas Tribune with the stated (left-wing) description of “comprehensive” immigration reform – as opposed, I suppose, to controlling our borders and enforcing our laws.

This appeared to be a forum that Carter enjoyed far more than taking questions from a skeptical audience in Salado or answering questions posed by an orange-shirted demagogue on the radio.

I might also note, that until the election of Donald Trump, no president since Ronald Reagan seemed to want to enforce immigration laws. Trump promised to build the wall and make Mexico pay for it, but the Congress constantly stymies him.

E-Verify logo

Congressman Carter kept talking about immigration.

In April 2013, he sat down for an interview with the Texas Farm Bureau, an organization that advocates for the agriculture community. In this interview, he had to walk on eggshells – and he zeroed in on a law known as E-Verify.

I wondered how that turned out. Wikipedia is my friend, so I looked it up.

A 2019 analysis by the Cato Institute found that while E-Verify used to be effective at spotting illegal immigrants, it was no longer so. The analysis estimated that the system only spotted the hiring of 16.1 percent of illegal immigrant workers in the fiscal year of 2018.

It appears that failure is a way of life when it comes to stopping illegal immigration and enforcing immigration laws. In San Antonio’s marketplace, you can buy MAGA hats that say:

Mexicans Always Get Across

I’d send one to Carter if he’d wear it.

If Congressman Carter is a “champion,” can he be a champion for ethics reform?

Carter is 79 years old at this writing. He’s a placeholder. At his age, he probably won’t run again. He’s not going to rock any boats. He was first appointed to a state district judgeship in 1981 and was reelected four times. He ‘s been in Congress 17 years. He ‘s taken a lot on campaign contributions – as they all do — in that time. The longer they stay, the more compromised they become.

If you want to know who has contributed to Carter, you can find it online. You can look at what industries have sent him money, campaign contributions, and more. You can decide if this is all fine, or if we need some campaign reform.

At this point, I want to make it clear that I will vote for John Carter one more time. His Democratic opponent would be far worse. But as I say, he’s a placeholder.

Me? I’m for reforming CONGRESS.

Congress needs a makeover. It needs to be less special and more accessible.

I’ve asked the question on Planet Logic – how many members of Congress were laid off because of COVID-19? They’re essential, I suppose – far more than the people who run mom-and-pop stores whose jobs don’t really matter. How much have members of Congress cut back on their salaries? Were they furloughed for weeks at a time like radio people have been?

Are three percent of them being eliminated like jobs at hospitals are? If I were in Congress, I would have insisted that salaries drop by half until the American people are back at work. Congressmen are NOT special. They are far too pampered for my taste. It was reported they put money in a COVID-19 rescue bill to make sure they were fully protected.  SNOPES says it ain’t so.

I would draft legislation to end Leadership PAC’s and other perks that congressmen get. Of course, it wouldn’t go anywhere – but I would go on national TV again and again to promote that legislation until members were shamed into passing it. This is a good time to go back and watch that Steve Kroft report again.

I’d try to deal with everything he mentioned in it. I’d advocate for tougher penalties for congressmen who use insider information such as we’re dealing with in the Richard Burr case.

I would make it a federal crime to accept a penny from a registered lobbyist.

That includes football tickets, cab rides, airplane trips – anything. Congressmen must NOT be bought. Lobbying is protected under the First Amendment, but bribery is not. Lobbying firms write most of our laws, and that’s likely a right they have – but I would expose that and deride it unmercifully. I’m about to the point that I think members of Congress should be banned from ever working as lobbyists.

Video:  Super-lobbyist Trent Lott explains to college suits how he brings members of Congress around.

I would reform congressional franking privileges and rewrite the rules on junkets. I’d make it hard for the public to avoid knowing who made political contributions to whom.

I think term limits are in order to avoid more people like Teddy Kennedy and Robert Byrd literally clinging to power until they die. In short, I’d work to make Congress a group of citizen legislators who go to Washington for the right reasons – and not to get rich quick off their legislative powers. Go. Serve. Come home. Live under the laws you passed.   That’s the way it should be.

My slogan would be:

Make Washington Honest!

Imagine someone going to DC with the mandate to totally reform Congress and make it honest.  The chance I’ll run is infinitesimally small. I’m no politician, and I will never beg for money like politicians have to do. But someone has to do this.

There seems to be no one in Congress focused on doing away with the legal-but-sleazy things that members of the House and Senate get away with every day. Certainly not John Carter.

Follow Lynn at these links:

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