“Why Mr. Smith Shouldn’t Go to Washington”
OK, so I was a little early (like 16 years).
However, the solution I proposed then — dispersing Congress geographically, as a way to curb lobbyists’ influence — makes even more sense today than it did back in the early ’90’s.
That’s not only because today’s technology is so much more advanced, but the threat posed by special interests is manifestly so much greater.
Here’s an excerpt from what appeared on the Star Tribune Editorial page on 9/27/1993, written by yours truly. (The Trib didn’t like the headline I chose, “Why Mr. Smith Shouldn’t Go to Washington.” Instead, it substituted its own, “Congress, come home: Faxes can do the talking on Capitol Hill.”)
In an era of jet travel, teleconferencing and faxes, why not bring Washington to the people? Specifically, let members of Congress work out of their home districts, under their constituents’ watchful eye.
Such an approach would make members of Congress less accessible to lobbyists, while simultaneously making them more accessible to constituents.
Imagine the change in attitude if people could actually visit their representative, without getting a plane, instead of settling for a machine-signed form letter (substitute “email” today).
Lobbying Congress now is like shooting fish in a barrel: All you need is a Washington branch office staffed by a few employees, and a well-heeled political action committee. Not surprisingly, more than 9,000 trade associations and businesses maintain an office in Washington (want to guess what the number is now??).
Keeping Congress at home would attract a different kind of politician as well. Instead of public service, many politicians now seem to be attracted by — or at least stay for — the power and the glitz. The best way to keep politicians from being seduced by Washington is not to send them there in the first place.
–Ross Kaplan, “Congress, come home: Faxes can do the talking on Capitol Hill (Star Tribune; 9/27/1993).
Really, it makes perfect sense.
To paraphrase (butcher?) a great country music line:
If you can’t take “Washington” out of the politicians . . . take the politicians out of Washington.