During the 2014 election cycle, candidates for the House and Senate raised a startling, combined $1.7 billion, which John Oliver said is "more than it costs to buy 242 million tubes of hemorrhoidal cooling gel and is somehow even more upsetting." During Sunday's Last Week Tonight, the host investigated the distressing methods – namely fundraisers and call centers – used to obtain these funds.
As Oliver explained, the most prevalent form of fundraising takes place at "shitty parties," of which 2,800 were held in 2014 alone. "Washington is like Rod Stewart's haircut: party in the front, party in the back, frankly too much party and no business anywhere," the comedian cracked.
While fundraising has become an inevitable part of campaigning for office, political organizations like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have made the process more strenuous by requiring massive "membership dues" from candidates. These funds have previously ranged from $125,000 to over $800,000, which Oliver said results in representatives and senators "hitting up their customer base harder than a Girl Scout with gambling debts."
Fundraising became so debilitating for New York Democrat Steve Israel that he recently retired from the House, stating, "I don't think I can spend another day in another call room making another call begging for money." Oliver chatted with Israel about the treadmill of fundraising and call centers, allowing the politician to vent. "It is, in my view, a form of torture," he said. "And the real victims of this torture have become the American people because they believe they don't have a voice in this system."
Oliver ended their segment with a salute to Israel's common fundraising theme – Long Island wine – by guzzling some chardonnay straight out of the bag.