The House Energy and Commerce Committee canceled its Tuesday markup session on health care reform in the face of flagging support among the committee's conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats. But members' scheduled $500-per-guest campaign fundraisers continued as scheduled. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) was available for a "Taste of Michigan" lunch at the Democratic Club townhouse, and Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) had lunch at a law firm downtown.
Ross is a leader of the committee's Blue Dogs, who are concerned about the costs of the bill, which has already been approved by two other House committees.
The Huffington Post, in its efforts to cover lobbying as it happens around town, visited the Ross lunch in hopes of finding out who would be there. Alas, the congressman and whoever else showed up to the 10th floor meeting managed to escape without being greeted by the Huffington Post. (The building had multiple elevators and exits, and this reporter has been told that he is no James Bond.) Ross' office did not respond to requests for details about the guest list.
Federal law does not require politicians to disclose who attends their fundraisers. The nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation posts invitations for upcoming events on its website, www.politicalpartytime.org, as it acquires them through Hill sources. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, health professionals are the top donors to Ross' campaign and political action committee for the 2010 election cycle.
On Monday evening Ross declined to tell the Huffington Post what the Blue Dogs wanted from closed-door negotiations with Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who later announced that Tuesday's markup would be canceled.
If they hailed from the health care industry, it's no surprise Ross wouldn't want to share info on his lunch guests, either. Fundraising is a touchy topic as the industry dumps money into politicians' campaign coffers in hopes of heading off revenue-killing reforms.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has faced intense scrutiny for accepting big bucks -- $1.5 million in 2007 and 2008 -- from the health care industry.
Baucus canceled a fundraiser scheduled for July 7, one day after the Washington Post singled him out for having close ties to health care lobbyists.
The Post reported that the health care industry has been spending $1.4 million a day on lobbying.
Even Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), chairman of the Ways and Means health subcommittee, has taken some heat from progressives for a planned Tuesday evening dinner party with health industry lobbyists -- even though Ways and Means approved the bill with a public option included.
Correction: This article originally reported that Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) had a breakfast fundraiser at Johnny's Half Shell. The event was rescheduled.
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