Peter Schweizer’s new book, Throw Them All Out, debuted on 60 Minutes as a tale of bipartisan “honest graft,” which Schweizer says is both widespread and legal among members of Congress.
He talks to National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about the book, Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, and a movie role for Mark Steyn.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: You open the book with Chesterton. Is there really anything new under the sun if Gilbert Keith was on to it? Or is there just nothing new under the sun?
PETER SCHWEIZER: Chesterton understood that politicians are capitalists. They are looking to enrich themselves in office. What is new under the sun is the methods they use. The old methods — bribes, kickbacks, etc. — are old hat. They are inefficient, not cost-effective, and they can get you thrown into jail. So instead of taking a bribe for $10,000, the Permanent Political Class in Washington gets access to special IPO shares of stake that will net them ten times that amount in a day. Or they buy stock options with inside information and double their money. And let’s not forget those land deals where they use earmarks to boost their own property values. It’s all very profitable. And has the added advantage of being legal.
LOPEZ: Is it just to “Throw Them All Out”?
SCHWEIZER: What I mean is that everyone needs to have a zero-tolerance policy on legal graft. I don’t care if I agree with a politician 95 percent of the time on the issues. If he’s getting rich on insider deals, I will no longer support him. Both sides need to embrace a zero-tolerance policy. I honestly believe the future of the country is at stake.
LOPEZ: “Ideology and political philosophy matter in Washington, but often less than you might think. Honest graft is generally bipartisan. Complex bills that are hundreds or even thousands of pages long can contain a single sentence or word that translates into money and that can influence how a politician votes.” This sounds like Mr. Smith. Have you thought about making a movie? Perhaps your book is only the beginning.
SCHWEIZER: A movie sounds great. Who should play the role of the earnest senator . . . perhaps Mark Steyn? In all seriousness, I used to think that the great debates in Washington were about philosophy and ideas. Actually, they are less important than we think. Politics is increasingly a business. One academic study looked at the TARP vote and found that the determining factor in whether someone voted for or against was not political party or ideology. It was whether they owned bank stocks or not. Those who did voted heavily in favor of the bailout. Those who didn’t tended to vote against.
LOPEZ: Is this what the Tea Party wants?
SCHWEIZER: What is so refreshing about the Tea Party is that they don’t make excuses for anyone. They are genuinely committed to the idea of a citizen legislature and are fiercely opposed to crony capitalism.