‘You’re constantly figuring out how to raise money,’ Pa. Rep. Dwight Evans of life in D.C. | Tuesday Morning Coffee

August 27, 2019 7:21 am

U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, D-3rd District, speaks to reporters after a Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon on Aug. 26, 2019 (Capital-Star photo).

Good Tuesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

It took just two terms for U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, D-3rd District, to score one of Capitol Hill’s most coveted committee assignments: A perch on the tax-writing House Ways & Means Committee. It’s the oldest standing committee in the legislative branch, and no less a personage than Pennsylvania’s own Thaddeus Stevens was once a member.

What’s all the more remarkable is that Pennsylvania boasts not one, but three members on the influential committee, in Evans, and fellow U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-2nd District, and U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-16th District.

And so it was, during a speech to the Pennsylvania Press Club on Monday that Evans, who presided over more than one budget during his years on the state House Appropriations Committee, pulled back the curtain on the legislative sausage-making on Capitol Hill.

Asked during a Q&A whether Congressional leaders availed themselves of earmarks or the Washington equivalent of ‘Walking Around Money’ to grease the official skids, Evans admitted that it was money — but not that kind — that still helps makes the world go ’round.

Image via Flickr Commons

“They don’t have earmarks,” Evans said, referring to the now hotly debated ban on earmarks that Congress imposed on itself in 2011. Still, Evans acknowledged that legislative leaders need to have something “in their toolbox.”

And what has replaced it may be even worse than earmarks, which were spiked by the House’s then-Republican majority as a nod to good government transparency.

“You’re constantly raising money,” Evans said, adding that he’s funneled his fund-raising energy into the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to get Democrats elected to the House nationwide (including Pennsylvania). “You’re constantly figuring out how to raise money.”

Evans, who was no slouch in the money-raising department during four decades in Harrisburg, had $111,000 on hand for his own 2020 re-election fund, the PA Post reported on Aug. 5.

U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, D-3rd District, speaks during the monthly Pennsylvania Press Club luncheon in Harrisburg, Pa. on Monday, Aug. 26, 2019 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

On Monday, Evans laughingly played down his fundraising ability when he was asked after his speech how much he’d had to raise to nab his seat on the Ways & Means Committee, saying he’d “like to think” he secured it because of his knowledge, chops, and qualifications.

The fact of the matter is, every lawmaker on Capitol Hill, from such relatively junior ones as Evans, to the most senior leaders, are expected to raise money — buckets of it.

And their capability to raise funds for the party does factor into their committee assignments.

Take, for instance, this nugget from a 2017 Brookings Institution report detailing what’s referred to as the “Committee Tax” on Capitol Hill:

During the 2013-2014 campaign cycle, Democratic ranking members serving on one of the “A” committees were told to transfer at least $1.5 million to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). Democratic rank-and-file members on the “A” committees were expected to kick in at least $450,000.

An ‘A’ committee, by the way, includes such primo spots as the Ways & Means Committee.

And this:

Every single member of the House, of both parties, is given a target they are expected to raise for the party. For example, a DCCC internal document itemizes every Democratic member’s party dues and the amount expected to be raised on behalf of the DCCC. Knowing that the opposing party mandates party dues forces the other to follow suit, thereby creating a vicious cycle of mutually assured fundraising destruction.

Image via Flickr Commons

The Brookings report also makes clear how markedly bipartisan this phenomeon is:

Chairmen of the U.S. House’s most-coveted committees—the so-called “A” committees that include Appropriations, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Rules, and Ways and Means—are each expected to raise at least $1.2 million for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) to satisfy the “party dues” slapped on members by GOP leaders. Less-coveted gavels on “B” committees like the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee come with a price tag of $875,000 for House Republicans.

Asked again about the fundraising requirement, whether he’d had to hit a certain threshold to land his committee slot, Evans, in the parlance of Capitol Hill, revised and extended his remarks for the record:

“I had to raise money like every other person,” he allowed, adding that “I’m not saying there’s thresholds to get onto a committee, but it’s certainly taken into consideration.”

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Our Stuff.
Elizabeth Hardison
 leads our coverage this morning with this fascinating look at what the ‘dual victims’ –those who are both crime victims and who also have a loved one serving an extended prison sentence — are doing to push for sentencing reform in Pennsylvania.

Stephen Caruso has all you need to know about Monday’s announcement that the Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office will not be pursuing criminal charges against a former Republican state lawmaker who has been accused of sexual assault.

Meeting near Pittsburgh, and spurred by the death of Antwon Rose, House Democrats will hold a hearing on police use of force — without having the police there, the very busy Caruso also reports.

Sarah Anne Hughes has the details on a multi-state filing by attorneys general across the nation, including Pennsylvania, challenging the Trump administration’s move to permanently detain undocumented immigrants and their children. A detention center in Berks County is part of that action.

U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, D-3rd District, says he’s still hoping that Congress can tackle gun-violence reforms this fall, including universal background checks and a ‘red flag’ law. But he says President Donald Trump is not a ‘reliable’ negotiator.

On our Commentary Page, regular contributor John A. Tures traveled to Baltimore not long ago, and has a challenge for President Donald Trump: If he’s so concerned about conditions in Charm City, there’s plenty the White House can do to address it. And conservative activist Matt Brouillette shares what he learned suing the Wolf administration over its budgeting practices.

The Philadelphia Skyline from the ‘Rocky Steps’ at the Philly Art Museum. Photo by Steve Lange, courtesy of Flickr Commons.

Angering some of her fellow Democrats, Philadelphia City Councilmember Helen Gym has endorsed an independent, the Inquirer reports.
Washington County will hold its very first PRIDE festival, Pittsburgh City Paper reports — in June 2020. But progress is progress.
Legislative leaders in the General Assembly aren’t in a hurry to support a Dauphin County grand jury’s recommendation to create an ‘Office of Legislative Responsibility’ to investigate complaints of misconduct, PennLive reports.
Pennsylvania Democrats will be staying across the state line in Illinois when the party gathers in Milwaukee for the 2020 Democratic National Convention, the Morning Call reports.

A former Montgomery County man who was deported to Mexico was found shot and killed there, Keystone Crossroads reports.
Bibliophiles rejoice: A venerable book store in West Philadelphia has new owners and won’t shut down, BillyPenn reports.
The Incline has a can’t-miss, 12-stop walking tour of Pittsburgh’s fountains that you have to take before summer’s end.
explains why some Amish want to leave Lancaster County.
Bernie Sanders picked up a labor endorsement in Pittsburgh, PoliticsPA reports.
Talking Points Memo explains why President Trump hosting the next G7 at one of his resorts is an emoluments minefield.

What Goes On.
The House Liquor Control Committee holds a 10 a.m. public hearing on ‘consumer convenience permits,’ at the Addison Fire Hall in Addison, Pa.
The House Democratic Policy Committee holds a 2 p.m. hearing on police use of force policies at the Hawkins Village Community Room in Rankin, Allegheny County.

Gov. Tom Wolf 
has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to our former PennLive colleague Josette Crosby Plank, and to Harrisburg PR guy Jack Sherzer (another Patriot-News alum), both of whom celebrate today. Congrats and enjoy the day, folks.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s one from Khruangbin. It’s ‘Maria Tambien.’ It’s just the sort of song you want to listen to as the sun goes down on some endless summer day.

Tuesday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link.
A number of smaller English league teams, such as Bolton and Bury, are under financial threat. The Guardian explains how their disappearance would tear at the fabric of the communities they call home.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.