Two things never fail to amaze me about the goings on in our nation's capital. First, the goings on themselves: Outlandish spending, inefficient bureaucracies, corruption, scandal and plain old "scratch your head" decision-making.
But what really amazes me are the answers I get when I ask questions about all these goings on: "That's just the way it's done up here, " I'm told, or, "You don't really know how it works, do you?"
It's with this bewilderment that I took it upon myself to ask a simple question for tonight's "360": Why are so many virtually unopposed and truly unopposed congressmen and women raising so much money for their campaigns?
They certainly do not need it for campaigning. Rep. Tom Price, a Georgia Republican, is expected to cruise to reelection. In 2004, he got nearly 100 percent of the vote. This time around, his opponent, a radio DJ, has so little money he can barely get yard signs up. TV ads are out of the question.
And out in Las Vegas, Rep. Shelley Berkley, a Democrat, is likely a shoo-in too. Her opponent has raised about $80,000, most of it his own money. Meantime, Rep. Berkley has raised around $2 million and counting.
So why do they need the money? Because in the city where people say -- "You don't really know how it works, do you?" -- the answer is that the city works most of the time with money. These two representatives spread much of their wealth to fellow members of Congress who need it for tight elections. Rep. Price told me it's helping the Republican team.
Rep. Berkley was blunt: "There are major issues that impact my state and it's very important I have friends in Congress." She says that because her state is sparsely populated, she sends excess campaign money to representatives in other states to make sure Nevada's concerns are "heard" when the time comes for a vote.
Vote buying? No, she says, more like access buying. "That's just the way it's done up here," I guess.