Campaign contributions to members of the House of Representatives increased 5.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009, according to a preliminary analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics. Contributions to members of the Senate increased by 2 percent.
"The fact that the economy is pretty weak and fundraising seems to be robust may speak to the idea that 2010 will be a big year," said CRP spokesman Dave Levinthal in an interview with HuffPost. "If you look at business, charitable giving -- everything's struggling, and politics doesn't seem to be."
House members raised $78 million in campaign contributions (which HuffPost commenters like to call "bribes") in the last three months of the year, bringing the total for 2009 to $294 million, according to CRP. The average representative raked in $680,000. Senators raised $36 million in the fourth quarter, $152 million for the year. The average senator raised $1.6 million.
How do they do it? Much of the fundraising happens in a cold room with a phone and a list of donors. It's called "dialing for dollars." An informal coalition of 57 of the biggest donors -- including Jonathan Soros and Herb Sandler -- on Wednesday signed a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) begging for the begging to stop.
"With an economy still in recovery from an epic downturn, unemployment at unacceptable levels, healthcare reform unfinished, and the path forward for a sustainable energy future unclear, Congress should fully focus on serving its constituents and solving our country's problems," the letter says. "Instead, as we well know from the solicitation calls we receive, our political leaders must fundraise constantly."
The letter says that in the wake of the Supreme Court's recent decision rolling back restrictions on corporate spending in elections, the donors expect members of Congress to have spend even more time than before dialing for dollars. To prevent this from happening, the letter says, Congress should pass the Fair Elections Now Act, which would provide public financing for campaigns.
Fundraising also happens in-person at daily events where lobbyists are invited to breakfast, lunch, or dinner with a lawmaker in return for a sizable campaign contribution. The lobbyists who attend such events saw a sizable increase in demand for their services in 2009, which turned out to be K Street's most profitable year ever.