10:38am

Wed January 9, 2013
Planet Money

Welcome To Congress. Now Start Calling Strangers To Ask For Money.

Here's a message for the newly elected Congressmen arriving in Washington: Get ready to spend a lot of time calling people on the phone and asking them for money.

The Huffington Post just got hold of a PowerPoint presentation that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee prepared for incoming freshmen. A key slide (posted above) describes a typical day. "Call time" refers to the time lawmakers from both parties spend in offices near the Capitol, calling up potential donors.

We talked about this last year in our story, Senator By Day, Telemarketer By Night. Here's an excerpt:

"If you walked in there, you would say, 'Boy, this is the about the worst looking, most abusive looking call center situation I've seen in my life,'" says Rep. Peter Defazio, a Democrat from Oregon. "These people don't have any workspace, the other person is virtually touching them."

There are stacks of names in front of each lawmaker. They go through the list, making calls and asking people for money.

The fundraising never stops, because everyone needs money to run for re-election. In the House, the candidate with more money wins in 9 out of 10 races, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics. In the Senate, it's 8 out of 10.

It's not uncommon for congressmen to average three or four hours a day moonlighting as telemarketers. One lawmaker told me if it was the end of the quarter and he really needed to make his numbers, he'd be there all day long.

There's not always time to do both jobs. And often, the fundraising wins out over the lawmaking.

Copyright 2013 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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