2016 A!HR Post

A1HR.org advocates the enactment of a Public Law that caps Congressional Districts at 50,000 persons, as proposed by the original first amendment in the Bill of Rights known as Article the First. 

This law would exponentially reduce the cost of House of Representatives campaigns thereby negating special interest campaign capital’s influence on HR legislation.  The law would also invalidate the practice of Gerrymandering, rectify the current  Electoral College imbalance and eradicate the need for political party partisanship in the House of Representatives. 

In short, a Congressional District cap of 50,000 persons will restore the collective wisdom of citizen governance over the House of Representatives.

How the People lost their Voice in the House of Representatives

In 1789, 2/3rds of the House of Representatives (HR) and U.S. Senate members passed 12 Amendments to the United States Constitution commonly known as the Bill of Rights.  The first amendment, Article the First (A1), capped Congressional Districts at 50,000 citizens insuring that the elected members of the House of Representatives would know and be known personally by their constituents.  Article the First remains the only amendment not ratified in the Bill of Rights (see www.articlethefirst.net).

 Despite failing ratification, Congress apportioned the HR as per Article the First after the 1790, 1800, 1810, 1820, and 1830 U.S. Censuses.  In 1840, the Whig Party won majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives.  The Whigs ran on a platform supporting the supremacy of Congress over the Presidency and favored a program of modernization, which included abandoning the A1 Congressional District 50,000 Citizens Cap, which they believed would make HR members more powerful. By 1860, the Whigs grew Congressional Districts from 53,000 citizens in the 1830's to over 80,000 in the 1840's and again to over 100,000 citizens in the 1850's.  After the Republican Party gained control of Congress in the 1860's, the new RNC majority grew Congressional Districts from 135,000 in the 1870's to 200,000 citizens by 1900's.

In 1911, in direct opposition to Article the First the 62nd Congress’ passed Public Law 62-15 also known as the House Apportionment Act of 1911.  This public law was introduced by the Democratic controlled House of Representatives as H.R. 2983.  It was passed by Congress on August 8th, 1911, and took effect on March 13th, 1913. This simple public law and its subsequent “apportionment act offsprings” are responsible for the current 435 member cap on the House of Representatives that has ballooned Congressional District sizes, on average, to over 740,000 citizens in 2016 (322,000,000 citizens/435 members = 740,230 citizens per district).

  To cope with these large districts and service constituents, Congress has been obliged to expand the number of federally paid “HR Staffers” from 500 in 1910 to over 12,000 in 2016. 

Up until the 1890’s, HR members were allotted no paid staff because their small districts’ numbered less than 70,000 eligible voters (men 21 years and older) per Representative.[1]  This changed in 1893, when House members were allotted one paid staff member each.  The following chart shows the growth of House staff from 1893 to 2013. [2]

Fiscal Year
1 to 2
18 + 4 part time = 22

[a] Sources: "Chronology of House Clerk-Hire, 1893-1993," supra this report and U.S. Congress, House, Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee, Legislative Branch Appropriation Bill: Fiscal Year 1994.  Before 1893 the House members paid for their own staff.  Since the 1919 staff allotment of two, the House of Representatives has been fixed at 435 Representatives.  For more information on House staff and salaries please read  The Number of Congressional Staff Is the Real Problem by Daniel J. Mitchell -  Note:  In 1979 Congress allotted four part-time staff members to each member, which has counted as one full time staffer or 19 total for our calculations.

Since 1910,  just before the first House Apportionment Acts were passed,  the federally paid HR Staff has grown from 500 for a 92 Million Population in 1910 to 12,300 (2,420% increase) for a 308 Million Population in 2010 (342% increase), while the number of HR members increased from 394 in 1910 to 435 (9% increase) in 2010. 
House of Representatives Staff
Committee staff
Personal Staff*
Leadership staff
Officers of the House Staff
1/2 of HR/Senate Joint committee staff
1/2 of General Accountability Office Staff
1/2 of Congressional Research Service Staff
1/2 of Congressional Budget Office Staff 

Source: Brookings Institute, "Vital Statistics on Congress", August 2014 edition
* HR Personal paid Staff of 18 full-time plus 4 part time or 19 x 435 = 8,265

If you divide the 708,056 citizens in each 2010 Congressional District by 20 (one Representative and 19 Staffers), the result is 35,403 citizens per one paid Congressional District public servant, which is surprising close to 37,700 citizens per one HR Member in the 1790’s.  The difference is, however, only one 2010 public servant in 20 serving 35,403 citizens is elected by the people in each Congressional District.    
Today, Congressional Districts now exceed a population of 740,000 citizens and inexperienced staffers, usually not from their Representative’s home district, are overwhelmed by the ever expanding constituent base. According to the Washington Times, these 24 year old staffers are running the House of Representatives:   
The most powerful nation on Earth is run largely by 24-year-olds.  High turnover and lack of experience in congressional offices are leaving staffs increasingly without policy and institutional knowledge, a Washington Times analysis of a decade of House and Senate personnel records shows — leaving a vacuum that usually is filled by lobbyists. Most Senate staffers have worked in the Capitol for less than three years. For most, it is their first job ever. In House offices, one-third of staffers are in their first year, while only 1 in 3 has worked there for five years or more.

Among the aides who work on powerful committees where the nation’s legislation takes shape, resumes are a little longer: Half have four years of experience. When Americans wonder why Congress can’t seem to get anything done, this could be a clue. It’s also a sharp difference from the average government employee: Unlike many state and federal workers with comfortable salaries, pensions and seemingly endless tenures, those in the halls of power are more likely to be inexperienced and overworked. Low pay for high-stress jobs with less-than-stellar prospects for advancement takes a toll on institutional memory and expertise.

While senators make $174,000, staff assistants and legislative correspondents — by far the most common positions in the Senate — have median pay of $30,000 and $35,000, respectively, significantly less than Senate janitors and a fairly low salary for college graduates in a city as expensive as Washington. Historical pay records were transcribed from book form by the website egistorm. 

The size of committee and members’ staffs have remained the same over the past decade, and salaries have often not risen with inflation — or at all. The average legislative counsel in the House made $56,000 last year, less than in 2007. While pay for parking-lot attendants in the House increased from $26,000 to $49,000 in the past decade, pay for staff assistants, who make up the bulk of the House’s workforce, rose from $26,000 to $30,000. That puts them in the bottom fifth of the region’s college-educated workforce. [3] 
Moreover, due to the large Congressional District sizes Representatives are obliged to spend between six and seven hours a day calling and meeting with donors to fund their next multi-million dollar re-election campaign. In 2013, the Huffington Post published this DNC Congressional Campaign Committee slide that advises incoming Freshmen on a Representative's Model Daily Schedule:

 This combination of an inexperienced staff working for elected House members that spend 70% of their time fundraising has created a vacuum of competency, which has been filled with seasoned experts paid by the money of lobbyists and other special interests.   National Public Radio reports that 11,000 Lobbyists are writing the House’s bills:

 It's taken for granted that lobbyists influence legislation. But perhaps less obvious is that they often write the actual bills — even word for word. In an example a week and a half ago, the House passed a measure that would roll back a portion of the 2010 financial reforms known as Dodd-Frank. And reports from The New York Times and Mother Jones revealed that language in the final legislation was nearly identical to language suggested by lobbyists.  It's been a long-accepted truth in Washington that lobbyists write the actual laws, but that raises two questions: Why does it happen so much, and is it a bad thing?[4] 

Lee Fang’s "Where Have All the Lobbyists Gone?” not only provides a graphic  mapping out special interest influence on Capitol Hill but provides $3.2 billion annual estimate in lobbyist spending:

On paper, the lobbying industry is quickly disappearing. In January, records indicated that for the third straight year, overall spending on lobbying decreased. Lobbyists themselves continue to deregister in droves. In 2013, the number of registered lobbyists dipped to 12,281, the lowest number on file since 2002. But experts say that lobbying isn’t dying; instead, it’s simply going underground. The problem, says American University professor James Thurber, who has studied congressional lobbying for more than thirty years, is that “most of what is going on in Washington is not covered” by the lobbyist-registration system. Thurber, who is currently advising the American Bar Association’s lobbying-reform task force, adds that his research suggests the true number of working lobbyists is closer to 100,000.

A loophole-ridden law, poor enforcement, the development of increasingly sophisticated strategies that enlist third-party validators and create faux-grassroots campaigns, along with an Obama administration executive order that gave many in the profession a disincentive to register—all of these forces have combined to produce a near-total collapse of the system that was designed to keep tabs on federal lobbying.
While the official figure puts the annual spending on lobbying at $3.2 billion in 2013, Thurber estimates that the industry brings in more than $9 billion a year. Other experts have made similar estimates, but no one is sure how large the industry has become. Lee Drutman, a lobbying expert at the Sunlight Foundation, says that at least twice as much is spent on lobbying as is officially reported. [5]

This LAISSEZ-FAIRE citizenship that began with the people allowing “House Apportionment” to stand at 435 Representatives has now extended into the membership of the House itself.  The Representatives have effectively turned the power of the purse over to PACS, corporations, political parties and other special interest groups.  Every two years, these lobbyists fund Congressional political campaigns with the millions of dollars needed to persuade 540,000 eligible voters to elect and re-elect candidates to the House of Representatives.  

Moreover, Revelation’s quote: "So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth" has manifested itself as a Grand Canyon size partisan divide in Congress. Simply put, large Congressional Districts require large sums of campaign capital and the majority of members’ funding comes from lobbyists and their respective political parties. Such large pecuniary donations are, by nature, "Hot & Cold" on specific legislative issues. There is little money for the lukewarm compromising Representatives of the past. Consequently, the House membership has evolved into a "Hot & Cold" campaign capital divide.

The U.S. Constitution mandates that “All Bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.” This sentence was inserted into the U.S. Constitution to ensure that the power of the purse be controlled by the legislative body most responsive to the people, the House of Representatives. The blame for the National Debt, originates in the House of Representatives, which is supposed to be the legislative branch of, for and governed by the people.

Would a 6,151 member Article the First HR further empower the two-party system, lobbyists and increase the federal bureaucracy to unmanageable levels?

If you view the House of Representatives as a team of 435 Representatives and 12,000 federally paid staffers working with 11,000 lobbyists, one can readily deduce that the House already operates with over 23,435 people conducting its legislative business. Earlier, it was noted that if you divide the 710,000 Citizens in each 2010 Congressional District by 20 (one Representative and 19 Staffers), the result is 35,500 Citizens per one paid Congressional District public servant. We also noted that this “Public servant” representation is surprising close to the 37,700 number of citizens that each HR member represented in the 1790’s with no staff.  

Unfortunately, only 435 people or 5% in this Member/Staff HR team are elected and answerable to the 710,000 constituents.   What we have not addressed are the 11,000 lobbyist that have become an integral part of the 23,435 person HR legislative team. 

Lobbyists are neutered
In an A1HR, these 11,000 lobbyists would effectively be replaced by 5,716 Representatives (6,151 HR members - the current 435 HR members).  Thus the HR legislative team would be reduced from a private/public sector employee mix of 23,435 to 18,151 public servants of which 33% would be elected U.S. Representatives under an A1 Congress.  

  • In A1 Congressional Districts, a candidate would only have to reach its 38,000 eligible voters (The US Census places the voting-age population at 76% of the total population). 

  • Consequently, any citizen over the age of 25 could become a viable grass roots candidate for Congress, much like a mayoral candidate in a small town.
  • Citizens would not need multi-million dollar media and other marketing expenditures to wage competitive campaigns to reach the 13,000-21,000 voters. 

  • The need for lobbyist campaign capital would be eliminated.

The National Media’s impact on HR races is negligible
In an A1HR, the press would lose its impact on the House of Representatives because free media and its endorsements, currently needed to reach 740,000 citizens, would no longer be essential political campaign components in Congressional Districts capped at 50,000 citizens. 

The two-party political stranglehold is broken

In an A1HR would no longer rely on the powerful two-party political system to wage their grass roots campaigns. Independent and political parties could, once again, break the 5% HR membership threshold that birthed and expanded numerous political parties, including the DNC and RNC, in the 18th and 19th Century Congresses.

Gerrymandering is invalidated
An A1HR, would virtually eliminate state legislature gerrymandering.  U.S. Congressional District Gerrymandering has been practiced since the Federalist and Republican Parties redistricting after the 1790 Unites States Census.  Congressional partisan gerrymandering is commonly used to increase the power of a political party but often two major political parties will collude to protect their respective incumbents by engaging in bipartisan gerrymandering. 
In the 19th Century jurisdictions began to engage in racial gerrymandering to weaken the political power of minority voters, while others engaged in gerrymandering to strengthen the power of minority voters. By the 20th century, the courts were forced to grapple with the legality of these types of gerrymandering and have since devised standards for the different types of gerrymandering. Additionally, various legal and political remedies have emerged to prevent gerrymandering, including court-ordered redistricting plans, redistricting commissions, and alternative voting systems that do not depend on drawing boundaries for single-member electoral districts.

Originally published on March 26, 1812 in the Boston Gazette, this Elkanah Tisdale caricature satirizes the bizarre shape of a state senatorial district as a dragon-like "monster." The new district was created by Massachusetts legislature to favor the Republican Party candidates of Governor Elbridge Gerry over the Federalists. The Federalist newspaper editors, however, likened the district’s shape to a salamander, and replaced “sala” with Governor Gerry's last name, coining the now familiar political term, Gerrymander.  - Image from the Library of Congress

The standards for congressional districts are now quite strict, with equal population required "as nearly as is practicable." In practice, this means that states must make a good-faith effort to construct districts with the exact number of people in each district within the state. Any district with more or fewer people than the "ideal population" must be specifically justified by a consistent state policy. And even consistent legislative policies that cause a one percent spread from largest to smallest district would likely be ruled unconstitutional.

The other major federal redistricting rule concerns race and ethnicity. In the past, redistricting has been manipulated to dilute racial and ethnic minorities' votes at the polls. The most familiar ploy is called "cracking,” which is the splintering of minority populations into small pieces across several districts, so that a big group ends up with a very little chance to impact any single election. Another tactic is called "packing," which is pushing as many minority voters as possible into a few super-concentrated districts, and draining the population's voting power from anywhere else.

The federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 was designed to combat Gerrymandering cracking, packing and other techniques utilized to deny citizens the right to an effective vote.   This federal law provided the courts with new powers to override inconsistent state laws that violated the Voting Rights Act.  It is agreed to by scholars that the geographic integrity of these ever-growing congressional districts has worsened in the United States since the 1960's but there is much debate over the reasons why. What the experts do agree on, however, is maintaining geographic compactness of districts has long been embraced as a traditional redistricting principle (see the "A Two Hundred-Year Statistical History of the Gerrymander" by Stephen Ansolabehere & Maxwell Palmer, May 16, 2015).
A1 Congressional Districts capped at 50,000 citizens would be geographically compact. These small districts would eliminate the practice of cracking, packing and other gerrymandering techniques because the populations will be too small for politicians to splinter or pack groups without violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965.   An Article the First HR virtually solves the challenge of Gerrymandering. 

The Wyoming vs California Electoral College imbalance is rectified
If the House of Representatives was not apportioned to 435 members and Congress followed an Article the First apportionment like its 1790-1840 Congressional predecessors, the Electoral College Vote would adhere more closely to the popular vote making Presidential elections more competitive.

The current movement to enact a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College in favor of a popular vote has virtually no chance for passage in Congress, let alone ratification by 4/5ths of the States' legislatures.  Like the establishment of the equal State representation in the U.S. Senate, the Electoral College was a Small States/Large States constitutional compromise agreed to during the 1787 Philadelphia Convention.   It was the Electoral College and other Small States/Large States compromises that eventually won the eleven State ratification of the current U.S. Constitution in 1788, which replaced the failed One State/One Vote unicameral federal government established under the Articles of Confederation on March 1, 1781. 

The enactment of an Article the First Apportion Law capping Congressional Districts at 50,000 citizenshowever, would not require a constitutional amendment and an Article the First Electoral College vote would more closely resemble the popular Presidential vote, for example: 
If we take Wyoming, the least populist state, with its population of 1 564,460 and divide it by the 50,000 Article the First (A1) Citizen Cap, the math yields 11 congressional districts plus one electoral vote for each Senator or 13 total electoral votes in a Presidential election. Now, the dividing of Wyoming's 564,460 citizens by its 13 Electors results in one electoral vote per 43,420 citizens.
Utilizing the same A1 50,000 Citizen Cap formula for California, the most populous state, the math is 38.8 million citizens divided by 50,000 Citizens = 760 Congressional Districts plus two Senators or 762 Electoral Votes. You then divide the 38.8 million population by/762, the math yields 50,918 California citizens per one Electoral College vote. The difference between the Electoral College vote and popular vote is only 7,498 citizens.
Under the current 435 House member capped Congressional District System, California has 53 Congressional Districts plus two Senators or 55 Electoral Votes. California's 38.8 million citizens are thus divided by 55 yielding 705,454 California citizens per electoral vote. Now, if you take Wyoming’s one congressional district and add two for its U.S. Senators this yields three Electoral Votes. Wyoming's 564,460 citizens are thus divided by three yielding 188,153 Wyoming Citizens per one electoral vote.  So the 705,454 Citizens equaling one vote in California minus the 188,153 Citizens equal one Electoral College results in a 517,301 citizen disparity per Electoral College Vote between the two States. 
An A1 50,000 Citizen Cap, however, corrects this 517,301 person disparity yielding 43,420 Citizens per one Electoral College vote in Wyoming versus 50,000 citizens per one Electoral College vote in California.  

This more equitable Electoral College system is what the Bill of Rights framers envisioned for all Presidential elections with its passage of Article the First in 1789 and the huge Wyoming vs California Electoral College imbalance is rectified.

Is a constitutional amendment required to create an A1HR?

No, the current cap on the House membership is a Public Law, which can be changed without a constitutional amendment. Right now, with a simple majority vote, Congress could repeal the current House Apportionment Bill and cap Congressional Districts at 50,000 citizens as proposed by Article the First in the 1789 Bill of Rights. 

What can I do to create an A1HR?

The members of this 1789 Congress included two future U.S. Presidents, three former Presidents of Congress, nine Declaration of Independence signers, four Articles of Confederation signers, and 15 U.S. Constitution Signers. Moreover President George Washington, Chief Justice John Jay, Secretary of State and Declaration of Independence author Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of the Treasury and U.S. Constitution signer Alexander Hamilton, Attorney General and U.S. Constitution framer Edmund Randolph, and Secretary of War Henry Knox worked behind the scenes to constitutionally cap Congressional Districts at the maximum of 60,000 or 50,000 citizens. Their debates and letters clearly indicate that the framers of the Bill of Rights wanted the House of Representatives to remain answerable to people through the mechanism of small districts devoid of any undue influence by special interests.

National Collegiate Honor’s Council Partners in the Park Independence Hall Class of 2017 students at Federal Hall National Historic Park with Ranger holding the 1789 Acts of Congress opened to the 12 Amendment Joint Resolution of Congress issued September 25th, 1789. The only amendment in the "Bill of Rights" that was not ratified is Article the First, which is still pending before Congress. Cintly is holding an Arthur St. Clair signed Northwest Territory document, Imani is holding the First Bicameral Congressional Act establishing the U.S. Department of State and Rachael is holding a 1788 John Jay letter sent to the Governor of Connecticut, Samuel Huntington, transmitting a treaty with France. – Primary Sources courtesy of Historic.us

A1HR.org advocates the enactment of a Public Law that caps Congressional Districts at 50,000 persons, as proposed by the original first amendment in the Bill of Rights known as Article the First. 

This law would exponentially reduce the cost of House of Representatives campaigns thereby negating special interest campaign capital’s influence on HR legislation.  The law would also invalidate the practice of Gerrymandering, rectify the current  Electoral College imbalance and eradicate the need for political party partisanship in the House of Representatives. 

In short, a Congressional District cap of 50,000 persons will restore the collective wisdom of citizen governance over the House of Representatives.

[1] United States Census Bureau, Reports and statistics from the 1890 census, Males of Voting Age table, page clxxviii.
[2] Chart is taken from a 1993 Congressional Report and shows the increase in the number of staff for each member of the House of Representatives since 1893.  Before 1893 the House members paid for their own staff.  Since the 1919 staff allotment of two, the House of Representatives has been fixed at 435 Representatives.  For more information on House staff and salaries please read  The Number of Congressional Staff Is the Real Problem by Daniel J. Mitchell
[3] Luke Rosiak,  Congressional staffers, public shortchanged by high turnover, low pay,  The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 6, 2012
[4] Alisa Chang, When Lobbyists Literally Write The Bill, National Public Radio, November 11, 2013
[5] Lee Fang, "Where Have All the Lobbyists Gone? On paper, the influence-peddling business is drying up. But lobbying money is flooding into Washington, DC, like never before. What’s going on?" The Nation, March 10-17, 2014.

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