When I attended law school in the late 1970s-early 1980s, I stumbled across a 1913 copy of former congressman, Wisconsin governor, U.S. senator, and 1924 Progressive Party presidential nominee Robert M. La Follette's autobiography. I read it 40 years ago; I am rereading it now.
In writing about his three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives (1885-1891), he penned these words:
"It seems to me now, as I look back upon those [House of Representatives] years, that most of the lawmakers and indeed most of the public, looked upon Congress and the government as a means of getting some sort of advantage for themselves or for their hometowns or home states. River and harbor improvements without merit, public buildings without limit, raids upon the public lands and forests, subsidies and tariffs, very largely occupied the attention of Congressmen. Lobbyists for all manner of private interests... crowded the corridors of the capitol and the Washington hotels and not only argued for favorable legislation, but demanded it.... It was easier to grow rich by gifts from the government than by efficient service and honest effort." Robert M. La Follette, A Personal Narrative of Political Experiences (6th edition 1913), pp. 86, 88.