Sen.-elect Marco Rubio (Fla.) was one of the many Republicans who won in November because of voter disgust with “business as usual” in Washington, D.C. Now, Rubio and other incoming Members have turned to K Street insiders to help pay off their campaign debts.
The hosts of a debt-retirement fundraiser this week for Rubio include some of the top GOP lobbyists in town. Among those sponsoring the Thursday reception at the Hotel George are Charlie Black, a longtime GOP operative and a principal in the Prime Policy Group; Drew Maloney, managing director of Ogilvy Government Relations; lobbyist power couple Vicki and Steve Hart; and Kirk Blalock, a partner in Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock and former official in the George W. Bush administration.
Walmart’s political action committee is also a host of Rubio’s event, and ditto for T. J. Petrizzo, whose firm, Petrizzo Strategic Group, lobbies for a number of health care and Florida-based entities, including the city of Hialeah and the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians.
Dirk Van Dongen, president of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, and Jade West, senior vice president for the group, are also hosting the event for the Florida politician, which begins with a VIP reception at 5 p.m.
An hour before the Rubio reception starts, at the same hotel, Sen.-elect Dan Coats (R-Ind.), a former lobbyist, is also holding a debt-retirement event.
Also on Thursday, Sen.-elect Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) will hold a debt-retirement luncheon at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters. Johnson beat incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold (D), who helped write a campaign finance reform law that passed in 2002.
Mary Boyle, a spokeswoman for Common Cause, said the flurry of events shows “how quickly and aggressively the fundraising circuit will take over in Washington.”
“These guys aren’t even here yet,” she said, noting that lobbyists are already lining up to try to influence them.
Rubio spokesman Alex Burgos said the Senator-elect ended the campaign with about $766,000 in debt. Having a fundraiser hosted by lobbyists will not influence Rubio’s actions in Congress, Burgos said.
“People buy into his agenda, not the other way around,” he said. “This is not the first fundraiser he has held in Washington, D.C.”
The invitation for the Rubio event lists lobbyists hosting his event. The invitations for the Coats and Johnson fundraisers do not, but lobbyists were invited to attend.
Rubio’s event is also being sponsored by Senate Republican leaders, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), NRSC Chairman John Cornyn (Texas), Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.).
West suggested that supporting Rubio is easy for her association.
“Marco’s allegiance to free enterprise is paramount,” she said.
West also said her group is supporting Johnson because of his background as a businessman and accountant and backing Coats because of his previous tenure on the Hill and K Street.
The proximity of the back-to-back events for Coats and Rubio on Thursday will make it easy for lobbyists such as West to hit both. “We will just walk across the hall,” she said.