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Lobbyists Ski, Hit the Beach With Lawmakers

Lampkin said he was particularly focused on getting face time with staff and lawmakers who are on the Financial Services Committee, which handles issues important to his clients, including BlackRock Capital Management, Cayman Finance, Hilton Worldwide and Visa Inc.

“Knowing people and having them know you is the stock and trade for lobbyists,” he said. “At times, you feel like you are running for office.”

The welcome-to-the-Hill events, which are not fundraisers and are paid for by the Members’ campaigns, are largely intended for family and supporters who have traveled to Washington to celebrate the swearing-in of lawmakers. But the K Street crowd was well-represented at such venues, particularly for the reception honoring Boehner, according to one lobbyist.

“It was a who’s who of the Washington downtown crowd,” the lobbyist said.

Monica Notzon, a GOP fundraiser, said that over the years, lawmakers and political parties have become more creative in planning such events to continue to attract donors, who are deluged with money-raising solicitations.

“You have to figure out how to stand out,” Notzon said. She added that the weekend events at resorts are “really good networking opportunities” for those who work for corporations as well as industry associations.

But she suggested that there was too much focus on the lavish weekend fundraisers, and she said most of the events she planned were low-dollar “beer and barbecue” events.

Aside from attractive locations, other lawmakers schedule their fundraisers around splashy events. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, is hosting a Super Bowl luncheon Feb. 5 at the Palm restaurant in Washington.

Timing is also important, Notzon said. She urges her clients to refrain from holding fundraisers in the week that Congress returns.

“I advise my clients to give everybody a break,” she said, adding that the largely ceremonial first week of the new session “really shouldn’t be about money.”

Nevertheless, freshman Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) organized a fundraising event at the trendy W Hotel for a number of new Republican Members last week. The event featured country singer LeAnn Rimes.

The shindig drew criticism from campaign finance reform groups, who said that it underscored a business-as-usual attitude in Washington despite claims on the campaign trail by tea-party-backed candidates that they wanted to sweep away old practices.

The Public Campaign Action Fund, a campaign reform advocacy group, attacked the fundraiser with Rimes as “tone deaf.”

David Donnelly, the national campaigns director for the fund, was equally critical of the weekend fundraisers at ski and beach resorts. He said such events provide an opportunity for “relationship building” that is not available at the more routine wine-and-cheese fundraisers held in Washington.

“It really is a chance to spend quality time with Senators or Representatives,” he said, adding that average Americans don’t get such opportunities.

Mary Boyle, a spokeswoman for Common Cause, said public interest groups  — such as hers — are also interested in talking to the lawmakers.

“Unfortunately, we can’t afford a weekend at the Breakers,” she said.

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