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David Jolly aims to curb federal elected officials from raising money while in office

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The corrupting effect of money on politics is a battle cry often heard from the left or more often from third-party or independent voters. Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly, however, is throwing his weight behind a measure that could limit how federal candidates raise money.

Jolly has proposed bill that would prevent federally elected officials while in office – including the president, vice president and members of Congress – from devoting time directly soliciting contributions for re-election or election to another office.

It wouldn’t cap contributions or otherwise limit their fundraising potential, but make it difficult to bring in the vast stream of finance currently flowing into federal elections.

Jolly proposed the bill after becoming enraged by the re-election expectations in Congress. Newly elected House members are told to log four hours each day making calls for campaign cash. Meanwhile, their workload expectation is only two hours a day.

“That is in the orientation packet for incoming members of Congress,” Jolly said.

According to the National Journal, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said the average senator spends two-thirds of their final two years of each term raising money for re-election.

“A senator has to raise $10,000 every day that they’re in office – every day of their six years – to make the average amount that’s spent today in a Senate race,” Daschle told the Journal.

“In any other profession, if you spent 30 hours doing anything other than your job, you’d be fired,” Jolly said.

Jolly has adopted the standard called for his Stop Act. He said he won’t use any of his time making calls for donations. Instead, he said he will continue his work representing his Tampa Bay area Congressional District 13 during his race for U.S. Senate.

“Federal officeholders would be permitted to attend fundraisers and speak to donors, but under no circumstance would they be permitted to directly ask for campaign,” a news release stated.

That means, officeholders such as Jolly may attend fundraising events and make a speech while campaign staff members and volunteers make the direct contribution requests. The candidate, though, would be prohibited from that.

Jolly plans to announce the bill during a news conference Tuesday morning at his Seminole office at the St. Petersburg College campus. Although he hadn’t yet seen the invitation list, Jolly said his office invited constituents affected by his legislation and actions during his two years in office.

They include veterans, police officers, and families. He invited a family whose adopted son was held in Congo for months because of red tape. Police officers are invited because of Jolly’s Thin Blue Line legislation to increase penalties on offenders who hurt officers. There will likely be families benefiting from Head Start programs Jolly has advocated.

“We want to show focus is on what should a member of Congress really be doing,” Jolly said.

Jolly plans to introduce the bill in Congress next week when members reconvene. To get the bill heard and moved through the legislative process, Jolly said he’ll need national backing.

Jolly is pushing the measure through national media outlets and plans to release a 2-minute video highlighting how much time federally elected officials spend raising money instead of working to help constituents.

He said that should enrage Americans: “We can’t have a part-time congress in a full-time world.”

If approved, the bill could swing advantage toward candidates challenging incumbents – or at the very least, minimize the disadvantage challengers already face. Jolly acknowledged that the bill would put incumbents at a fundraising disadvantage.

However, staff and volunteers would instead shoulder the fundraising burden. For example, Jolly has a campaign staff member in D.C. whose sole job it is to identify fundraising opportunities and schedule events. Jolly can attend and speak at those events, but according to his bill and pledge to abide by it, can’t directly solicit contributions.

Jolly also speculated on the bill’s potential to increase campaign funding from outside groups. That’s something Jolly said is likely already happening. He pointed to his Special Election campaign when $14 million was spent, although only $1.5 million was raised by the actual campaign.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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