Let’s say you work for a nonprofit, “community service” group. You apply to your representative for a grant in the form of a “member item” or an allocation from a “discretionary fund.” You receive this money. Hooray! Next, your representative shows up to your group’s meeting, and pictures are taken that find their way into the local paper. You write a letter of thanks to your representative. All the publicity surrounding this largesse (paid for, mind you, by the taxpayers, not by your representative) ensures that your representative gets to be known as “someone who cares.”
The next year, when your representative is running for reelection, somebody else is running for the same seat. But the challenger is laboring under an enormous burden: The incumbent has given your group money, and probably will again – if reelected – and you don’t want to lose that funding. You “need” that money to continue “serving the community.” So you send word around that the incumbent needs to be reelected.
In other words, your representative has bought your vote. Not only your vote, but your active support as well. What’s worse, the purchase (don’t dare call it a “bribe”) was made with tax money.
Moreover, not every group can obtain this money. Most groups that receive member items already have some connection to their representatives, which is how they begin the process. Groups that don’t have a connection are usually left out.
There is no solution, short of eliminating all “member items” at all levels of government.