To Israel’s point, outside spending in congressional races has more than doubled since the Citizens United
decision in 2010. with half of that being unreported "dark money." According to a study
by the Brennan Center for Justice in the 10 most competitive Senate races in 2014, outside spending accounted for 47 percent of all money in the races, with the candidates spending 41 percent, and party committees spending just 12 percent. In many ways, the men and women running for office have become supporting actors to the people spending millions to influence the outcome of their elections.
Israel lays the blame for the current system at the feet of the Republican majority, which he said refuses to consider the DISCLOSE Act, the Democratic proposal to increase transparency and enforcement in campaign spending. “Both parties hate fundraising, but only one party wants to stop it,” he said.
In fairness, Democrats at every level have been willing to use super PACs to go dollar-for-dollar in campaign spending with Republicans if that’s what it takes to win. The super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton has raised $20 million
this cycle and just reported $6 million from mega-donor George Soros.
But the super PAC-soaked presidential contest may also have the solution to the super PAC arms race in the Bernard Sanders campaign. Sanders, who has no super PAC, raised $20 million in January alone, nearly all of it in the form of small online donations from grassroots donors.
The benefit for Sanders goes beyond novelty: He spends almost no time fundraising
, attends few fundraisers and has no finance team to pay. By avoiding mega-donors and PACs, Sanders has sidestepped many of the pressures that are pushing members of Congress out of office. But of course, he hasn't won his election yet, either.
Israel’s retirement should have popped out of the headlines like a big red flag. If a top panhandler can’t stomach the game anymore, you know the system is broken. The good news for the congressman is he may have a second career as a novelist once he leaves Capitol Hill. He published his first book, “The Global War on Morris,” to strong reviews
and has a follow-up in the works. If all goes well, the next hors d’oeuvres Steve Israel sees will be at his book party.
Roll Call columnist Patricia Murphy also covers national politics for the Daily Beast.
Follow her on Twitter at @1PatriciaMurphy.