The executive director of the Progressive Policy Institute explains how “politicians, donors, and fundraisers” have distorted our politics.
After falling into the job almost by accident, for 15 years Lewis raised money for politicians as well-known as Richard Gephardt, Ted and Patrick Kennedy, Kent Conrad and Howard Dean and for numerous lesser-knowns running for office at all levels. His fundraising talent eventually landed him the post of finance director for the Democratic National Committee. With the aid of political analyst Arkedis, Lewis submits 66 slight chapters, each a vignette drawn from his career. For Lewis personally, it’s a Hunter Thompson–style story of drugs, alcohol, traveling and partying; for the fundraising “profession,” it’s a tale of groveling, corner-cutting, deception and fraud. The real scandal, as the saying goes, is what’s legal. Wheedling money from lobbyists at expensive lunches, from the rich and famous—Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, Norman Lear—at catered “events,” from sit-downs with the merely rich—George Soros, Peter Lewis—and even occasionally from the grass-roots used to be a mere adjunct to our politics. Now the fundraiser’s role is crucial. Throughout, Lewis styles himself as a champion of the average Joe who entered politics for the right reasons but was seduced by the proximity to power. As he became aware of the harm he inflicted, the damage done to our politics, he insists he made repeated efforts either to reform the system from within or to get out of the business entirely. However, the author takes too much delight in his skulduggery and indulges too willingly in tiresome Washington score-settling to be entirely believed. At best, his professional memoir will be received as the political equivalent of Jose Canseco’s baseball tell-all Juiced (2005). No one particularly admired the messenger or the book, but the whole squalid story turned out to be true.
A hugely depressing deep dive into the cesspit of money and politics.