After one week off, John Oliver returned to take on a Congress that isn’t working hard enough and a baseball team working too hard to be elite.
As usual, John Oliver didn’t hold back from chastising elected officials and political candidates for some of their most egregious actions and policies. This time around, he gave Donald Trump the week off (I mean, as much as is humanly possible. He couldn’t resist poking fun at him for simplifying the need for both Japan and South Korea to obtain nuclear weapons because come on, Donald Trump, you asked for that). Instead, he turned his attention toward congressional fundraising, which requires that members of congress basically beg for money over the phone so they can raise millions of dollars and keep their jobs.
Oliver played clip after clip showing elected officials complaining about how dialing for dollars is the worst part of their day. But when that day also includes benefitting from the best health insurance in all of the land, earning a rather nifty salary and enjoying perks like (I’m betting) a gold invitation to the White House Easter Egg Roll (so jealous), it’s difficult to get the feels for them.
Of course, you know whose side Oliver is on. Here are seven observations and hilarious reactions he had when discussing congressional fundraising:
1. Oliver cut right to the chase: Members of the House of Representatives and Senate raise an astounding $1.7 billion a year in funds. Much of the money has to be raised by the candidates themselves, and many of them describe the process as “embarrassing.” Oliver struck back: “An embarrassment … that is a strong statement,” before cutting to Ted Cruz reading an excerpt from Green Eggs and Ham aloud on the Senate floor. ‘Nuff said.
2. Oliver revealed that elected officials spend 25% to 50% of their time raising money. “You’re not a legislator, you’re Robert De Niro at that point,” he said.
3. Noting that all of the time they have to spend on phones leaves a lot less time to do their jobs, Oliver said, “Congress is like Rod Stewart’s haircut. Party in the front, party in the back, frankly, too much partying no business to be had.”
4. Apparently, fundraisers are a lot more subtle and effective when legislators roll them into actual events, like wedding anniversary parties and birthdays. After his daughter turned him on to her music, Congressman Don Beyer actually held a fundraiser at a Taylor Swift concert. “I don’t know about you, but this man is not ‘feeling 22,'” Oliver said. “He is feeling and looking very much 65.”
5. Oliver reminded us that the Government by the People Act of 2015 is the best hope we have for reforming the financing of Congressional elections by preventing big money donors from taking over. Just two pesky problems: it would cost $500 million over 10 years and has, Oliver says, a 0% chance of being enacted.
6. While interviewing Congressman Steve Israel, who has been vocal about his hatred for fundraising, Oliver asked how many fundraisers he has had to attend. The answer: 6,000 in 16 years.
7. Israel and other members of congress have to make phone calls from inside little cubicles set up with call books and sheets with phone numbers and information about past donations. Israel said he preferred to be straightforward with donors and ask for money first, then engage in small talk and polite conversation. “It’s like somebody giving you a massage starting with a hand job and then going, it’s fine but unexpected,” Oliver said.
Lastly, I must include Oliver’s hatred for the New York Yankees because it’s the stuff of legends. I shouldn’t say he hates the baseball team itself or its players (A-Rod being the exception), but rather that he has no time for all of this holier-than-thou seating drama and the fact that you can no longer print your tickets at home if you plan on attending a Yankees game. A few weeks ago, Yankees Chief Operating Officer Lonn Trost passed a rather tasteless comment in which he more or less implied that folks who can afford “premium seats” have zero interest in sitting next to “someone who has never sat in a premium location.”
Oliver’s perfect solution? He purchased four premium seat tickets and will be giving them away for a song and dance through Twitter to anyone who posts a photo of their outfit along with the hashtag #IHaveNeverSatInAPremiumLocation.
And that is how you make people eat their words.