March 31, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Retiring Members Still Seek Donations

Lame-Duck Senators Have PACs to Feed

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Sen. Joe Lieberman is not running for re-election, but he and his wife, Hadassah, are headlining an April 5 event to raise money for his leadership PAC.

Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) might be retiring from Congress, but so far they arent taking a break from fundraising.

Both Senators announced earlier this year that they would not seek re-election in 2012, but the two have continued to hit up potential donors on K Street and around D.C. for contributions to their leadership political action committees.

K Streets response: Wed rather not.

Im not supporting this stuff, said one high-profile lobbyist who has been solicited by the retirees. People are stunned. It just doesnt seem quite right.

Conrads DAKPAC held a breakfast Wednesday at Capitol Hills Charlie Palmer Steak restaurant; the minimum donation to attend was $1,000, according to an invitation. Lieberman and his wife, Hadassah, are headlining an April 5 evening event at D.C.s Bibiana Osteria & Enoteca. The suggested contribution to Liebermans Reuniting Our Country PAC is $2,500.

Its difficult to find out why retiring Members continue to work the fundraising circuit. An official in Liebermans Senate press office did not return a call seeking comment, and a fundraiser for Conrad said she would have someone get in touch, but no one had by press time.

Members who are not running for re-election can continue to raise money for their leadership PACs to help their in-cycle colleagues, or they can give the money to party committees. Theyre also free to donate the money to charity. In fact, they can use the money any way they see fit.

The campaign finance laws do not prohibit you from using leadership funds for personal use, explained former Federal Election Commission General Counsel Larry Noble, who is now a counsel in the political law department at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom. Leadership PACs allow departing Members to remain politically active and to remain a player.

If Members decamp for K Street, as ex-lawmakers they can continue giving political cash to sitting Members through their PACs something ordinary lobbyists privately said they resent. In effect, the money lobbyists contribute to ex-lawmaker PACs is used against them in the competitive game of developing business.

Its all that uncertainty about how retired Members can use the donations that has most lobbyists opting not to give their campaign cash to those preparing for careers off the Hill.

Why wouldnt I give to someone whos in cycle, rather than someone whos leaving? one Democratic lobbyist said. Granted, theyll be around for the next two years. But if youve announced youre retiring, when theres so many people in need, why wouldnt they just host an event for Members they want to help?

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