Members of Congress crammed more than 20 fundraisers into the last day of the quarter on Wednesday, according to invitations obtained by the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation. The mad dash for cash capped a month stuffed with daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner events, where lobbyists arrive with checks in exchange for an audience with an elected.
Rep. Allen Boyd's event at the National Democratic Club townhouse on the Hill was specifically an "End of Quarter Lunch Reception." In other words, the Florida Democrat wanted some last-minute help boosting his fundraising total for the quarter.
"It's very common to see an uptick in March, June, and September," said Sunlight's Nancy Watzman in an interview with the Huffington Post. "A lot of times lawmakers are beefing up their fundraising total so they can look formidable and scary to opponents... It's a way to brag about your power. If you can raise a lot of money, that can also help when you're trying for leadership."
Raising money is a huge priority for members of Congress, who spend a significant chunk of their time shaking the money tree with both hands, both at fundraising events and by "dialing for dollars" -- sitting in a room with a phone, calling one potential donor after another to beg for cash. Fundraisers are scheduled for all times of day, even if an event conflicts with legislative duties. The Huffington Post covers lobbying in real time and tries to track some of the scheduling conflicts:
- On Sept. 23, Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) raised funds over Chinese food instead of attending an oversight committee hearing on the plight of minorities in the recession. Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-Calif.) joined him rather than attend a labor committee hearing on the Employee Non-Discrimination Act.
- On Sept. 17, Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) and Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Pa.) raised money instead of attending a hearing on proposed regulation of derivatives, the financial products closely associated with the Wall Street meltdown.
- On Sept. 10, Reps. Mark Schauer (D-Mich.) and Robert Latta (R-Ohio) ditched a transportation committee hearing to raise funds, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.) played fundraiser hooky from a judiciary committee hearing.
Wednesday's end-of-the-quarter events included a "Wii Golf Outing" for California Republican Rep. George Radanovich (if it's a video game, shouldn't the event be called an "inning"?). The party was hosted by the Entertainment Software Association Political Action Committee. As the invitation notes, Radanovich sits on the Commerce Committee and on the subcommittees on Communications, Technology and Internet and Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection.
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) had margaritas with lobbyists, and Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) had a "Fiesta FUNdraiser" at a townhouse owned by congressman-turned-lobbyist Jack Fields, CEO of the Twenty-First Century Group lobbying firm. Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) had a "Casual Dinner" at the home of lobbyist couple Deb Anderson and John Milne, from whom House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) rented an apartment in 2006.
So there was a lot of fundraising on Wednesday (though not as much as on Sept. 22, when at least 43 events took place).
The third quarter filing deadline is Oct. 15. After that, we'll learn from the Federal Elections Commission who did the best job of soaking up cash.