Members of the Senate Finance Committee -- the last committee still wrangling over health care reform legislation -- have raised eyebrows lately with their talent for raising cash from industries directly affected by the legislation. Quarterly filings with the Federal Election Commission show that committee chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) raised $219,000 from health and insurance political action committees between April and June.
Quarterly filings are well and good, but the Huffington Post is on an ongoing mission to actually see this money handed over in real time -- to witness the proverbial shaking of the money tree. And to that end, HuffPost visited a Thursday morning breakfast fundraiser at Charlie Palmer Steak for Finance Committee member Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), featuring "special guest" Chuck Grassley.
The invitation, obtained by the Sunlight Foundation and posted on its website, www.politicalpartytime.org, lists the price of admission as a campaign contribution ranging from $2,000 to $500 to Roberts' campaign committee. (The event might be the very last fundraiser in D.C. before the Senate adjourns for its August recess.)
Standing by the door at the start of the event, Grassley declined to say who might be attending. "You'll have to ask Senator Roberts," he said before walking inside.
Guests politely declined to identify themselves as they arrived. But one, a lobbyist representing the American Association of Crop Insurers, forgot to remove his name tag when he left (Sen. Roberts sits on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry).
Asked what was discussed during the breakfast, the man said it was health care. He said Sen. Grassley did not discuss his upcoming meeting with other Finance Committee members -- the so-called "Gang of Six" -- and President Obama later in the day.
HuffPost was robbed of its chance to ask Sen. Roberts about the guest list. This reporter and colleague Laura Dean had two exits covered as we waited for breakfast to wrap up. But the senators found a third way out. Guests who left the way they came in said nice things about the coffee and eggs but declined to share details about the conversation.
Additional reporting by Laura Dean.
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