Swamp Stories

By Issue One

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A new series brought to you by Issue One that dives into political reform with a conservative lens. It follows our host Weston Wamp — millennial Republican and former candidate for Congress — as he shines a light on the swampiest practices in Washington that repulse Republicans and Democrats alike: Slush funds in Congress, dark money in elections, gerrymandered districts, foreign interference in our elections, dialing for dollars, and more. Voices from the left and right are accompanied by leading reformers who discuss bipartisan solutions to fixing the broken political system and how to take back our government. Swamp Stories is part of The Democracy Group, a network of podcasts that examines what's broken in our democracy and how we can work together to fix it.

Episode Date
28. Conversations: Former Rep. Donna Edwards

In episode 28 of Swamp Stories, Weston chats with former Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) about what it was like being a member of Congress, how she would fix our broken political system, and the RV trip that she took across America alone after the 2016 election to better understand the rise of Donald Trump. 

This is the fourth episode in our periodic series of longform conversations between host Weston Wamp and leaders in the political reform movement.


  • Former Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD)


To learn more about How Do We Fix It?, another show in the Democracy Group podcast network, visit: https://www.democracygroup.org/shows/how-do-we-fix-it

Jun 04, 2021
27. Fixing the FEC

The Federal Election Commision (FEC) has long been plagued by gridlock and dysfunction — known for its inaction and ideological and partisan divides. In episode 27, Weston chats with the current chair and two former FEC commissioners to explore how the agency got to this place, and what can be done to help make the nation’s campaign finance watchdog more functional and effective.


  • Shana M. Broussard, Current Commissioner and Chair of the Federal Election Commission
  • Ann Ravel, Former Commissioner of the Federal Election Commission
  • Michael Toner, Former Commissioner of the Federal Election Commission


To learn more about Let's Find Common Ground, another show in the Democracy Group podcast network, visit: https://www.democracygroup.org/shows/lets-find-common-ground

May 21, 2021
26. Conversations: Former Rep. Reid Ribble

This is the third episode in a periodic series of conversations between Swamp Stories host Weston Wamp and leaders in the political reform movement.

In this episode, former Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI) joins Weston to chat about the need for political reform, the problems Ribble sees with his own party’s narrative on elections, and the prospects for bipartisan compromise in the current Congress.


  • Former Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI)


To learn more about Our Body Politic, another show in the Democracy Group podcast network, visit: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/id1533069868

Apr 30, 2021
25. The Funnel

We're following up on the last episode of Swamp Stories by taking a deeper dive into the world of "dark money" and examining a once rare strategy that's used to funnel this unaccountable cash through 501(c)(4)s and into the hands of super PACs — all while keeping the identities of the original donors in the shadows.

With the help of his guests, Weston shines a light on how this strategy works and explores legislative steps that Congress could take to make dark money less secretive.


  • Former Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA) 
  • Danielle Caputo, Legislative Affairs and Programs Counsel at Issue One
  • Anna Massoglia, Investigative Researcher at OpenSecrets


To learn more about Politics in Question, another show in the Democracy Group podcast network, visit: https://www.politicsinquestion.com/

Apr 09, 2021
24. The Arms Race That Won’t End

More than $1 billion worth of unaccountable "dark money" flowed into the 2020 election at the federal level. This secretive spending by groups with anonymous donors has a corrosive influence on American politics and leaves voters and candidates in the dark about who is attempting to influence their votes and the outcome of an election. 

As Congress considers campaign finance and other political reforms, Weston chats with two experts about how this undisclosed cash is thriving and why both political parties should join together to promote greater transparency in campaign spending.


  • Michael Beckel, Research Director at Issue One
  • Anna Massoglia, Investigative Researcher at OpenSecrets

To learn more about Democracy in Danger, another show in the Democracy Group podcast network, visit: https://medialab.virginia.edu/democracyindanger

Mar 29, 2021
23. The Most Secure Election Ever

The 2020 election was called "the most secure election in American history" by the federal government's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Against the backdrop of a worldwide pandemic, running the election was no small task. Across the country, state and local election officials worked tirelessly to administer safe, free, and fair elections.

In episode 23, Weston chats with three of these officials about how they helped make the 2020 election successful despite the numerous challenges they faced.


  • Jocelyn Benson, Michigan Secretary of State
  • Adrian Fontes, Former Maricopa County Recorder
  • Shane Schoeller, Missouri’s Greene County Clerk
Mar 08, 2021
22. The President’s Frontman

President Trump and his supporters ran a months-long campaign to attack the 2020 presidential election and undermine the democratic process. One of the most notable attacks was launched on the results in Pennsylvania by the man once known as "America's mayor" — Rudy Giuliani. Dispatched by the Trump campaign, Giuliani led the charge with baseless claims of voter fraud and attacks on mail-in voting.

In episode 22, Weston unpacks what occurred in Pennsylvania to shine a light on how disinformation was used to raise doubts about the integrity of the state's election.


  • Former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge (R)
Feb 19, 2021
21. The Georgia Meltdown

In 2020 politics, Georgia was ground zero. It came to be a swing state in the defeat of the incumbent president, and it flipped the Senate with the defeat of two Republican senators.

And lots happened in between Election Day in November and the Senate runoffs in January that shook Georgia and the U.S. Senate.

In episode 21, Weston tells the inside story of how Georgia exposed the lie about election fraud, and reveals how Republicans lost those two Senate seats in Georgia — in part because they couldn't stop attacking our elections.

Feb 04, 2021
20. Firewall

COVID-19 has changed many aspects of everyday life, including the way many Americans are voting. Because of this, people have increasingly begun to wonder about delayed election results, or contested outcomes, or even the possibility that a candidate may not concede. But in the middle of all this, a group of well-respected Americans has come together to defend the integrity of our elections, ensure that every American's vote is counted this November, and instill confidence that we can hold a safe, secure, and successful election this year — just like we did through both world wars and another pandemic. Listen to Weston speak with two of them in this episode.


  • Former Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Member of the National Council on Election Integrity
  • Former Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), Member of the National Council on Election Integrity
Oct 30, 2020
19. Recounting 2000

This year, many Americans are worried that the 2020 elections will be contested, chaotic, and drawn out, leading to comparisons with the infamous 2000 Bush vs. Gore election that was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court.

Weston sat down with Leonard Downie Jr., Executive Editor of the Washington Post during the 2000 election, to unpack what happened in 2000, what if any parallels there are to this year's election, and how politics and journalism has changed since 2000.

Oct 19, 2020
18. Conversations: Justin Giboney

This is the second episode in a periodic series of conversations between Swamp Stories host Weston Wamp and leaders in the political reform movement.

This week, AND Campaign’s Co-founder Justin Giboney joins Weston to discuss the intersection of faith and politics, separating identity from political party, and how people of faith can put their faith in action in this election and beyond.

Oct 12, 2020
17. Setting the Record Straight

Running an election amidst a pandemic presents historic challenges — a problem made even more difficult by a new and unprecedented controversy about absentee voting, a well-established method of casting a ballot which is expected to double this election. Voters on both sides of the aisle are left wondering what the facts are, and whether or not we'll be able to trust the outcome because of it.

Host Weston Wamp sets the record straight by talking with two election experts about absentee voting, fraud, and the Post Office’s ability to handle the increase in mail-in ballots.


  • Amber McReynolds; National Vote at Home Institute, CEO
  • Tammy Patrick; Democracy Fund, Senior Advisor to the Elections Program
Sep 29, 2020
Bonus Episode: "People of Faith: Engage 2020"

Issue One hosted a roundtable with faith leaders to explore how people of faith and church communities can engage civically to promote shared values and integrity in a volatile election year. The “People of Faith: Engage 2020” summit featured Christian musician Michael W. Smith, longtime Southern Baptist leader Dr. Richard Land, President Obama’s evangelical outreach leader Michael Wear, & Campaign Co-Founder Justin Giboney, and young author and theologian, Kaitlyn Schiess. The conversation was moderated by Issue One's ReFormers Caucus Co-chair and former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp and Weston Wamp, Issue One’s Senior Political Strategist.

Sep 14, 2020
16. Whistleblowers

A unique bipartisan group of over 200 former members of Congress, governors, and Cabinet officials has come together to build off their experiences while in office and advocate for solutions to fix our broken political system. Weston chats with a few of these ReFormers about their time in Washington, their personal swamp stories, and what they’re doing to help increase transparency, improve civic participation, and make our political leaders more accountable to the American people.


  • Former Amb. Connie Morella (R-MD), Issue One ReFormers Caucus Co-chair
  • Former Amb. Tim Roemer (D-IN), Issue One ReFormers Caucus Co-chair
  • Former Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC), Issue One ReFormers Caucus Member
Aug 31, 2020
15. The Conservative Case for Reform

Host Weston Wamp examines the history of conservatives opposing political reform over the years, and looks at how a new wave of Republican reformers is turning the tide when it comes to fixing the political system. Listen to this episode to hear Weston speak with some of these reformers, including a member of Congress, to build the conservative case for reform.


  • Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI)
  • Luke Knittig, Senior Director of Communications at the McCain Institute
  • John Pudner, Executive Director of Take Back our Republic
  • Nilmini Rubin, Co-Founder of Fix the System
Aug 06, 2020
Bonus from Democracy Works: The People Who Choose the President

At the end of its 2020 term, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on what might seem like an obscure question in Constitutional law, but could have huge ramifications in elections this November and beyond. Democracy Works, Swamp Stories' partner in the Democracy Group podcast network, dives into the ruling on “faithless electors” in this episode featuring Issue One’s Executive Director Meredith McGehee.

Jul 31, 2020
14. Conversations: Nick Penniman

We’re introducing the first episode in a periodic series of conversations between Swamp Stories host Weston Wamp and leaders in the political reform movement. This episode's guest: Nick Penniman, Founder and CEO of Issue One

Jul 27, 2020
13. Hidden Trillions

The CARES Act, which was signed into law in March, was intended to help with the crippling economic effects America was experiencing due to COVID-19. But it also opened the floodgates to a lobbying frenzy by big businesses attempting to influence where funds should go. In episode 13, Weston looks at those efforts to shape the CARES Act, and the critical importance of ensuring that these kind of programs are transparent and that taxpayers can see where their money is going. 


  • Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN)
  • Danielle Brian, Project on Government Oversight Executive Director
Jun 25, 2020
12. Shadow Lobbying

The influence industry looms large in policymaking in Washington, DC, and the big players are lobbyists. Because of legal loopholes, more people than ever who make a living lobbying Congress are skirting the rules with impunity to avoid registering as a lobbyist and wearing the scarlet "L." On episode 12, Weston wades into the world of “shadow lobbying” to give listeners an inside look into what lobbying actually means, how influencers are able to easily get around the rules, and introduces us to a Republican and a Democrat who are working to close loopholes to ensure that the way decisions are made is transparent for Americans.


  • Rep. Ben Cline (R-VA)
  • Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN)
Jun 01, 2020
11. Fixing the People's House

Congressional approval ratings have been at an all-time low in recent years. But a small group of members in Congress — and dedicated political reform groups — are trying to turn that around and make Congress more functional and responsive to the American people. This week, we’re taking you behind the scenes for an up-close look at one of the few bright spots in Washington — the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.

This episode has been updated with additional information.

Guest List:

  • Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Chairman of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress
  • Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), Member of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress
  • Rep. William Timmons (R-SC), Member of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress
  • Betsy Wright Hawkings, Managing Partner, Article One Advisors, LCC
  • Erin Hustings, Legislative Counsel, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO)
  • J.B. Lyon, Co-founder of the Rebuild Congress Initiative; Managing Director of Mt. Independent Investments
  • Bruce Patton, Co-founder of the Rebuild Congress Initiative; Co-founder of the Harvard Negotiation Project and the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School
May 18, 2020
Bonus Episode: COVID-19 and Democracy

We joined some of our fellow Democracy Group members for a special bonus episode about COVID-19's impact on politics at the local, state, national, and international levels.

On this episode:

Apr 30, 2020
10. The Show Must Go On

One of the biggest challenges COVID-19 poses to our democracy? Holding safe, secure, and fair elections this year. Our democracy is at risk if states don’t adequately prepare for the various threats that this viral outbreak presents to the smooth running of our elections. In this episode, we talk with leading voices at the state and national level about how coronavirus affects voting, the task ahead for states and election administrators, and how our elections can be held safely this year.


  • Michael Steele, Former Republican National Committee Chair
  • Denise Merrill, Connecticut Secretary of the State

Additional Resources:

Apr 24, 2020
9. Profiting from Public Service

Recent news reports have exposed that some members of Congress dumped stock after receiving classified congressional briefings on COVID-19. We're going to talk about how lawmakers are able to use their positions of power for personal financial gain through insider trading — and what Congress can do to stop it.

Episode Guests:

  • Former Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN), Issue One ReFormers Caucus Co-chair
  • Meredith McGehee, Issue One Executive Director


Apr 13, 2020
8. The Russians are Coming

In 2016 and 2018, foreign actors including Russia, China, and Iran interfered in our elections and tried to disrupt our political system. Here’s how we can stop them from succeeding in 2020.


  • Sen. James Lankford (R-OK)
  • Amb. Tim Roemer (D-IN), Issue One ReFormers Caucus Co-Chair
  • Nick Penniman, Issue One Founder and CEO
  • Liz Howard, Counsel, Brennan Center’s Democracy Program

Learn more about Issue One's "Don't Mess With US" project and solutions to help prevent foreign interference in our political system at https://www.dontmesswithus.org.

You can find all episodes of Swamp Stories at https://www.swampstories.org.

Mar 30, 2020
7. Beating the Machine

Conventional wisdom says the candidate who has the most money wins on election night. But that’s not always true, and we’ll talk about how David has beaten Goliath in recent years as candidates turn to small-dollar fundraising, digital-first campaigns, and grassroots armies to beat the system.

Mar 16, 2020
Introducing: Democracy Works

This is a guest episode from the "Democracy Works" podcast. Swamp Stories will return  on March 16 with a new episode. Full notes at www.swampstories.org

Follow Issue One on Twitter.

Mar 09, 2020
6. Dark Money Shell Game

In 2010, the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to record amounts of secret cash flowing into our elections. Here’s how it works - and why we have to stop it.


  • Former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-OK)
  • Anna Massoglia, Center for Responsive Politics, Researcher

More show notes at www.swampstories.org. Follow Issue One on Twitter. Follow Weston Wamp on Twitter.

Mar 02, 2020
5. A Gerrymandering Tale You Haven't Heard

“Politicians should not choose their voters.” That simple statement is at the heart of why no reform issue has gained more crosspartisan momentum in recent years than getting rid of so-called gerrymandering. But both parties have years of work and millions of dollars invested in drawing districts that benefit one team more than the other.


  • Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and former presidential candidate
  • Katie Fahey, The People, Executive Director
  • Josh Silver, Represent.Us, Executive Director

More show notes at www.swampstories.org. Follow Issue One on Twitter. Follow Weston Wamp on Twitter.

Feb 24, 2020
4. The Super PAC Surprise

Billionaires, political consultants, and the super PACs have more control in our political system than ever. And both parties are playing the game to win. Here’s how to begin fixing it.


  • Mark McKinnon, former George W. Bush & John McCain political advisor, Host of SHOWTIME's "The Circus" 
  • Trevor Potter, former Federal Election Commission Chair & Campaign Legal Center Founder and President

More show notes at www.swampstories.org. Follow Issue One on Twitter. Follow Weston Wamp on Twitter.

Feb 17, 2020
3. Secret Slush Funds

Little-known slush funds let elected leaders vacation at five-star resorts, spend tens of thousands of dollars at steakhouses steps from the Capitol, and upgrade their wardrobe one pair of shoes at a time — all under the guise of “fundraising.” But learn about why living lavishly leads to one member of Congress being thrown in jail, and others treating it as business as usual.


  • Former Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA)
  • Issue One Legislative Director Tyler Cole

More show notes at www.swampstories.org. Follow Issue One on Twitter. Follow Weston Wamp on Twitter.

Feb 10, 2020
2. Extorting the People's House

During their orientation on Capitol Hill, new members of Congress learn about a decades-old tradition often referred to as dialing for dollars, or dues. Political leaders effectively turn newly elected lawmakers into telemarketers — exchanging seats on committees for contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars, and sometimes millions, to the political parties.


  • Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL)
  • Former Rep. Vic Fazio (D-CA) & Former DCCC Chair
  • Issue One Research Director Michael Beckel

More show notes at www.swampstories.org. Follow Issue One on Twitter. Follow Weston Wamp on Twitter.

Feb 03, 2020
1. Cashing In

In 2003, PhRMA and other special interests in Washington overcame conservative opposition in Congress — including then-Reps. Mike Pence (R-IN), Jim DeMint (R-SC), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and others —  to pass the largest social welfare program in a generation, Medicare Part D (the prescription drug program). But what nobody knew at the time was one member of Congress in particular was cashing in and preparing to walk through the revolving door to work for the pharmaceutical industry.


  • Former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) & former Heritage Foundation President
  • Former Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN) & Issue One ReFormers Caucus Co-chair
  • Issue One Executive Director Meredith McGehee

More show notes at www.swampstories.org. Follow Issue One on Twitter. Follow Weston Wamp on Twitter.

Jan 27, 2020
Trailer: Swamp Stories

Issue One is the leading crosspartisan political reform group in Washington, uniting Republicans, Democrats, and independents to fix our broken system. More info at IssueOne.org.

Jan 03, 2020