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.
Despite the hurdles, fundraiser Mike Fraioli of Fraioli & Associates said sitting Members, even ones on their way out, can most likely find sources of political cash. “As long as you’re here, you may not be able to convince any new folks who haven’t previously contributed, but folks who have previously given, they may not want to max out, but it wouldn’t be unusual for them to give you a check,” he said.
And it might be an easier sell for Lieberman and Conrad, who are committee chairmen. Conrad heads the Budget panel, while Lieberman runs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
“The idea that you’re helping to get them re-elected is gone, but you still want to remain in their good graces,” former FEC lawyer Noble explained.
It is not unprecedented for Members who have already announced their retirement plans to hold events. Last summer, then-Rep. John Tanner (D-Tenn.) held a golf fundraiser for his Leadership 21 PAC. That set individual donors back $2,500 for the round, according to a Roll Call report at the time.
Tanner, who this year joined the lobbying firm Prime Policy Group, did not return a call seeking comment about his leadership PAC, but FEC records indicate that he has no cash on hand.
Former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), now a lobbyist with Patton Boggs, continued to give out campaign contributions from his New Republican Majority Fund PAC as recently as the 2010 midterm elections, according to FEC reports. The PAC’s treasurer of record, Bret Boyles, did not return a call seeking comment.
When former Members who become lobbyists have a big pot of political cash to throw around, it can help them launch their lobbying practices.
“I think it’s nuts that Members who are not running for re-election are raising money for their leadership PACs,” one Republican lobbyist said. “They’ll probably use the funds to help their lobbying practice.”
But not everyone does.
Ex-Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who has joined the lobbying and law firm Arent Fox, donated the bulk of his Great Plains Leadership Fund PAC to start the Aspen Institute’s Center for Native American Youth, aide Pam Gulleson said.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.