It’s time for Pete Sessions to learn how to listen.
By Teddy Rube, Senior Organizing Associate
Pacing on stage in an ornate concert hall in downtown Dallas before thousands of voters, Representative Pete Sessions was fuming. It was his first town hall since the 2016 election, and voters were angry about Sessions’ votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act – and giving him an earful.
Sessions, though, made it manifestly clear that didn’t care what his voters had to say. After a set of pointed questions, he turned his back on the crowd. With a hand on his hips and head turned high, he grumbled, “You have to learn how to listen.” Later on in the night, the square-jawed Texan had the gall to ask for credit for deigning to meet with his constituents at all.
It was despicable, arrogant behavior for a man elected to represent 753,715 constituents in the Dallas metropolitan area. But it couldn’t be more on-brand for a man who’s been described as the “sphincter of Congress” and who’s accumulated a Texas-sized record of selling his voters out to his corporate donors.
Pete Sessions has been in Congress since 1997, and for 21 years he’s been doing the bidding of his big donors instead of the work of his voters.
It only took him nine years to make his debut on CREW’s “Most Corrupt Members of Congress” list, in 2006, for links to the Jack Abramoff scandal. Ties to a conservative megadonor who feted Sessions with campaign donations and private trips helped advance his career – until the donor went to prison for a 110-year sentence for running a Ponzi scheme (days before he was arrested, Sessions told him “I love you and still believe in you”).
Sessions craves big money so deeply that – we’re not kidding – he skipped his own swearing-in ceremony (the part where you take the oath to “support and defend the Constitution”) in 2011 to go to an illegal fundraiser on the Capitol grounds instead.
A longtime darling of the telecom industry, Sessions taken over $200,000 from just AT&T alone – an investment that paid off big time when the congressman voted to allow internet service providers to sell your data and chose not to save Net Neutrality.
He’s also in deep with the worst characters in the banking industry. Heard of predatory payday lenders – the shady banks that charge poor people over 900% interest on short term loans? Not the type of people you’d want as friends – unless you’re Pete Sessions. Payday lenders gave him over $220,000 in career contributions, making him the 4th highest Congressional recipient of their tainted cash. In exchange, he’s rewarded them with repeated votes to deregulate banks and make it easier for payday lenders to scam consumers.
To top it all off, last December Sessions voted for the GOP tax scam – the most blatant payoff modern history – transferring $1.5 trillion in tax dollars to the Koch Brothers, the Mercers, and the corporations who have filled his campaign accounts for two decades.
It’s not just his disgraceful commitment to working for his corporate pals that’s distinguished Sessions as a thoroughly corrupt figure. It’s also his complete disregard and antagonism for the solutions that would decontaminate our democracy.
He voted against a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. He’s blocked dozens of bills that would have exposed the sources of the dark money tainting our elections, and shut down bills that would have taxed it (saving the Kochs millions there, too!) He even blatantly attempted to dismantle the House Office of Congressional Ethics in June of 2017 (When asked point-blank if he was trying to destroy the agency “because its intent is to hold members accountable,” Sessions didn’t deny it).
At the end of that town hall in Dallas, a visibly angry Sessions haughtily lectured the people to whom he owes his office. He threatened that if they asked too many hard questions again, “no member of Congress will want to meet with people.” As if it’s a choice!
That night made it clear: Sessions didn’t just obviously detest his voters. He doesn’t feel he’s accountable to them. What makes that possible is the money. It’s his donors’ campaign cash that has insulated him from the voters for 21 years straight.
In Sessions’ world, Congressmen don’t listen to their voters. They listen to their donors.
It’s time for Dallas voters to clean the corporate cash out of Sessions’s ears and teach him how to listen – or find someone else who will do the job.
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Photo credit: Rep. Pete Sessions’ Official Twitter Account.