Members of Congress spent the past few months fighting over the nation’s balance sheet, but now that they’ve headed out of town for recess, they are in agreement about one fiscal matter: their own treasuries.
With jaunts to Nantucket, Mass., Lake Tahoe and Sun Valley, Idaho, (among many others), the K Street fundraising scene isn’t closing up shop; it’s going on summer vacation.
And for burned-out lobbyists who want to skip the business-mixed-with-pleasure pursuit of money in August, September promises to be packed with even more fundraising opportunities.
“You won’t have to look at your kitchen — you can just have breakfast, lunch, dinner somewhere,” Democratic fundraiser Mike Fraioli said.
The schedule of events begins right away. Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has his annual “Camp Baucus” fundraiser set for this weekend, according to lobbyists who were invited. One noted that the activities would include fishing and horseback riding. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has booked Aug. 12-14 at Lake Tahoe to raise money with Democratic Sens. Bill Nelson (Fla.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.).
But Democrats won’t have the Mountain West to themselves.
According to invitations sent to lobbyists, Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) is organizing a Park City, Utah, weekend on the same dates as Reid’s. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) has invited donors to a late August respite at the Broadmoor, a swanky resort in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho) is holding an Aug. 16 Rocky Mountain oyster and steak barbecue in Sun Valley, Idaho. And fellow Idahoan Sen. Mike Crapo (R) has an Aug. 16-17 fly fishing, trap shooting, horseback riding and barbecue event near Sun Valley.
The cost to attend these events for individuals and political action committees usually ranges from $1,000 to $5,000, and that doesn’t include travel expenses.
“A lot of lobbyists will do a whole string of events in one region,” said GOP fundraiser Monica Notzon of the Bellwether Consulting Group. “A lot of these events are family friendly.”
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) plans to hobnob with K Streeters on Aug. 16 at a private residence in Nantucket.
He’s not the only one in search of New England ocean breezes. Democratic Rep. Bill Keating, whose district includes Nantucket, is planning a weekend trip to the island starting Aug. 19. And Rep. James Langevin (D-R.I.) is hoping to lure donors to a golf tournament Aug. 8 at the Shelter Harbor Golf Club in Charlestown, R.I, and an Aug. 17 Red Sox game at Boston’s Fenway Park.
Closer to Washington, D.C., Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) has invited lobbyists to an NFL preseason game between the Ravens and the Redskins on Aug. 25 in Baltimore.
But even a local one like that might be a tough sell for some K Streeters who have decided to take the month off.
“I don’t do fundraisers in August,” said Steve Elmendorf, a top Democratic donor who runs Elmendorf Ryan. “I don’t consider going to a fundraiser a vacation.”
Even some lobbyists who typically enjoy the August scene said they were steering clear because it’s the first full Congressional recess since Easter and might be their last chance to get out of town before the end of the year.
That’s because when Congress returns next month, the new deficit reduction committee will start, and lobbyists say they might be here until Christmas.
The committee itself, likely the subject of intense lobbying efforts from inside and outside Congress, will help spur fall fundraising. “Now, every oxen is on the table, and they’re all going to be gored,” one Democratic lobbyist said.
Industries from health care to defense and agriculture to technology will have a stake in the fight — and will be at odds with one another in many cases — and that will only intensify the fundraising. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) even proposed a bill this week called the Super Committee Sunshine Act that would force the as-yet-unknown members of the panel to disclose their campaign donations of more than $1,000 every 48 hours.
“Because of the deal that’s just been cut on the debt ceiling, it means the fundraising is going to go up right until Dec. 23,” said tax lobbyist and high-dollar GOP donor Ken Kies of the Federal Policy Group. Already, he said, he gets about 50 fundraising solicitations a day.
Another wrinkle in the September dash for cash is that many Members have canceled events that were set to take place this week.
“There have been a bunch of cancellations of stuff in Washington because of the rather notable speed with which these fellows got out of town,” said Democratic donor and lobbyist Larry O’Brien, founder of the OB-C Group.