As reported by The Hill, lobbyists who pay a $25,000 fee will get to mingle with House Republicans at their annual winter retreat next weekend:
The lobbyists are board members or sit on the private sector advisory committee for the Congressional Institute, a nonprofit organization that arranges conferences and lunches for both parties. Lobbyists attending the event will have no part in the closed-door caucus planning session, but lawmakers and lobbyists alike said business does come up informally.
"Of course it's about access and building relationships -- that's what this town is all about," said one lawmaker who has attended the retreats for years. He said lobbyists who travel to the retreats often stay on for after-hours socializing throughout the weekend.
The lobbyists in question work for General Motors, JP Morgan Chase, HSBC, United Healthcare, UPS, and Altria, among other places.
The Huffington Post has learned that the retreat, taking place on January 29-31, will be at the Homestead, a mountain resort in Hot Springs, VA.
The 15,000-acre luxury resort boasts of its full spa services, "three championship golf courses", horseback riding, carriage rides, lawn bowling, "a world-class shooting club," skiing, and "fly fishing with Orvis-endorsed instructors."
Representatives of the Congressional Institute would not reveal the group rate paid by attendees, but room rates at the resort range from $185 to over $600 per person.
The retreat may appear to be a vestige of old Washington, especially in the ethics-focused environment of the new Obama administration. Democrats and Republicans have attacked each for years over the funding of such retreats, and Democrats have used taxpayer money in the past to pay for part of the cost.
A spokesman for the GOP conference told the Hill that the ethics panel approved the retreat, "which will be open to reporters."
The Congressional Institute, a Republican-friendly organization that conducts research and hosts seminars on various issues, has prominent lobbyists on its board and has been funded with donations from corporations including Verizon, SBC Communications and Union Pacific.
At the retreat, lobbyists will get to discuss business interests with the House Republicans, reports UPI:
The lobbyists from the non-profit Congressional Institute will not participate in a closed-door caucus planning session at the GOP's annual winter retreat in Hot Springs, Va., but they will be invited to a reception and dinner and spend the night, the institute's president told United Press International in response to an earlier report from the Washington newspaper The Hill.
The institute was among the top sponsors of congressional travel between January 2000 and June 2005, spending more than $830,000 on almost 1,000 trips, according to the Center for Public Integrity, and organizes at least one retreat for congressional Republican leaders each year.