There is a quaint perception that the life of a congressman is spent crafting legislation and casting votes that will help guide the country and shape meaningful public policy for years to come.
In actuality, a solid chunk of a lawmaker's time is spent in a basement of a party office building, dialing phone numbers and begging some of the wealthiest people in the country for their money. As The Huffington Post reported in 2013, a good four hours of a freshman congressman's day is supposed to be spent in "call time" -- roughly the same amount as is spent on the actual work of Congress (hearings, votes and constituent meetings).
It's not just the elected officials who have to do it. The aspirants for office have to do so as well.
In the latest "Candidate Confessional," former Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who ran as a Democrat for the Arizona Senate seat in 2012, laid out just how miserable the dialing for dollars can be.
"It was terrible because every day I had to spend several hours a day on the phone," Carmona recalled. "They give you call lists and when I went to Washington a few times to visit, I was at the Senatorial campaign offices, right across from the capital. I would see all the Senators there. Every day. They have rotations. They would be coming in and sitting at a phone for two to three hours a day, and the Republicans did it too."
It was an utterly cynical and contrived process, Carmona recalled. He'd be put on the phone with people he barely knew -- if he knew them at all -- and would go through a rote script that a strategist had decided was most effective for getting a donor to open up his or her check book.
"You'd blame the other guy and ask for money so you could go there and save the world," Carmona said. "It was so disingenuous. So disingenuous."
In the end, Carmona didn't do so poorly when it came to hustling for campaign cash. He raised $6.45 million for his race. But not enough to keep pace with his opponent, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) who collected more than $9 million. The money differential was a factor in Carmona’s defeat.
It was a tough race, filled with personal, nasty attacks. But looking back, Carmona was maybe most upset about all that time he spent fundraising.
"I got to tell you it was the worst part of being in the political campaign," he said.
Listen to the podcast above, or download it on iTunes. And while you’re there, please subscribe to, rate and review our show. Make sure to tune in to next week’s episode, when our guest will be Anthony Weiner, the former congressman, who discusses his brush with scandal and his campaign for mayor of New York City.