A lot of ink, paper and broadcast time has been consumed trying to trace the origins of the current economic collapse, with a lot of the blame being placed on government’s failure to regulate effectively.
Personally, I think that trail ends right here:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Here’s a peek at e-mails popping into lobbyists’ inboxes these days offering quality time with members of Congress:
—A weekend at the Clearwater, Fla., spring training home of the world champion Philadelphia Phillies with Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa., including a game, a meeting with players and a ballpark tour.
—Golf at a Montana course designed by Arnold Palmer and fly fishing on the state’s Madison, Gallatin and Yellowstone rivers with Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.
—A “Saint Patrick’s Day on the Rio Grande” reception at a Tex-Mex restaurant near the Capitol with Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas.
There’s a catch: Be prepared to contribute plenty of money.
Though it’s early in a non-election year, politicians and special interests are blasting out daily e-mails by the truckload, beckoning lobbyists and other would-be donors to fundraisers ranging from the mundane to the exotic. A look at scores of them, provided by recipients, shows they share a straightforward message: Members of Congress would like your help getting in re-elected, and contributors can spend time with them….
A list (of fundraisers) compiled by the Democrats’ House campaign committee runs 22 pages and includes 190 events slated for 2009 for House Democrats alone, with some already planned for October.
With the stalled economy drying up contributions, Republican fundraiser Monica Notzon says she might send 500 to 5,000 e-mail invitations per event.
“I probably get 10 to 15 a day,” said lobbyist Butler Derrick, a former House member. “I’ve gotten so I can recognize them and I just kill most of them.”
Hosts compete to draw crowds. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., planned an event this week featuring Muhammad Ali, while Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., is inviting donors to go skeet shooting. Others invite contributors to a Bruce Springsteen concert, a wine-tasting weekend in Oregon, baseball and NCAA basketball tournament games, and weekends in New York or Palm Springs, Calif…..
Congressional re-election campaigns can cost millions of dollars. Defenders call fundraisers a harmless chance for contributors to exercise their rights to support and meet with legislators. They say the charges of undue influence are exaggerated.
“Put your money back in your pocket if you think it’s going to buy you something other than a club soda and a Swedish meatball,” said Michael Fraioli, a veteran fundraiser for some House Democrats.
The solicitations are effective. Lobbyists contributed $34 million to federal candidates in 2007 and 2008, ranking them 16th among more than 80 industries studied by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
“You go there with a check in your hand and that’s your opportunity to meet with the member” of Congress, lobbyist John Meredith said of fundraisers. “That’s kind of how it works.”
Even so, some lobbyists are resentful.
“When you have both parties during election periods come up and bash lobbyists, and then you have the audacity to send me a fax asking me to attend your fundraiser, I think it’s hypocritical,” said lobbyist Paul Miller.