11/10/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Lawmakers Skip Thursday Hearings To Raise Funds

Now that Congress is back in session, its members are busy with two jobs: Making laws and raising campaign funds. Good government groups insist the two tasks are incompatible. On Thursday, that proved to be the case for several legislators.

The nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation obtained invitations to fundraisers that day in honor of 22 lawmakers. Some of these events were taking place at the same time as honorees' scheduled committee hearings in Congress. Huffington Post interns visited some of these fundraisers to inquire about the scheduling conflict.

(There's nothing particularly unusual about these little parties but our mission is to cover mundane lobbying in real time.)

As Rep. Mark Schauer (D-Mich.), a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, was leaving a fundraiser at a Capitol Hill townhouse, he said that earlier he'd made an appearance at a hearing on hazardous materials (which was ongoing).

The price of admission to the fundraiser, which was hosted by lobbyist Tim Rupli, ranged from $500 to $5,000. Among the guests were a lobbyist from the Machinist & Aerospace Workers Union and another from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

HuffPost interns Julian Hattem and Elyse Siegel asked Schauer which guests attended the fundraiser to give him money. Schauer said it was "people for labor, the environment." He added, "Even though health care is the big story, there are still lots of other issues."

Meanwhile, at the hearing, Lon D. Santis of the Institute of Makers of Explosives testified about transporting hazardous materials: "Although the IME is taking steps to add measures in its standards to address the major causes of roll‐overs, it does not believe that [multipurpose bulk trucks] are any more prone to roll‐over than other bulk material transport vehicles."

Also at Schauer's fundraiser: "Special Guest" Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.), who was missing out on a Judiciary Committee hearing on "Competition and Commerce in Digital Books".

"I couldn't attend. I had... a lot of other meetings going on," said Wasserman-Schultz, who'd appeared on MSNBC at 11. She added that she was not the honoree, just a special guest. "I'm with the Democratic leadership, and he's a freshman congressman, so I'm trying to help him out."

In a subsequent phone interview, Wasserman-Schultz spokesman Jonathan Beeton told the Huffington Post that his boss had already reviewed the prepared witness testimony.

"It's not uncommon for multiple hearings and multiple subcommittee hearings to be going on at one time," he added.

At the nearby Capitol Hill Club, the Huffington Post visited a fundraiser for Rep. Robert Latta (R-Ohio), who, like Schauer, sits on the transportation committee.

The host -- perhaps mistakenly -- led Huffington Post interns George Sweeney and Jenna Staul directly to the table where Latta was seated. Asked about his guests, Latta said it was "folks in the district we have contacts with." They weren't able to ask Latta about the transportation committee hearing.

Sweeney and Staul also spotted Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele but they felt compelled to leave due to the less-than-hospitable vibe coming from the lunch table.

Reporting contributed by Julian Hattem, Elyse Siegel, Jenna Staul, and George Sweeney

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