Sept. 23, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Members Confront Debt From Capitol Hill to Capital Grille

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell kicked off the lame-duck fundraising circut with a dinner this week.

Updated: 7:10 p.m.

When Members of Congress return to Washington, D.C., the “fiscal cliff” is not the only financial pinch they will confront.

Eager to retire campaign debt and prepare for the next election cycle, lawmakers will split their time between debt talks and dozens of fundraisers.

Less than 24 hours after the polls closed Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) kicked off the circuit with a dinner at the National Republican Senatorial Committee offices on Capitol Hill.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), and Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) planned events Friday in Florida at Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, according to the Sunlight Foundation’s Political Party Time blog.

Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) opted to tap his district donors for cash before returning to Washington next week.

Republicans appear to be hosting the vast majority of the events scheduled in Washington during the lame duck, although Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) is planning a holiday reception for Dec. 7. The Gula Graham Group invited lobbyists Friday to nearly 40 Republican fundraisers, 19 of which are scheduled for next week, according to an email obtained by Roll Call.

That’s just the beginning, said Jack Howard, the vice chairman and COO of Wexler and Walker Public Policy Associates.

“I expect it to hit full gale next week,” he said. “Already getting invitations for both 2014 and debt retirement. There’s no end to the adventure.”

Howard said he planned to lay low, attending only the reception for McConnell.

The events cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000 a head, although some lobbyists who made contributions in the final weeks of a campaign attend events — held at the Capitol Hill Club and the Capital Grille among other swanky spots — at no charge.

“I’m not beating people up today for money for 2014,” one Republican fundraiser told Roll Call. “I’m not turning it away, but I’m not making phone calls and sending emails like I usually do.”

Most new Members of Congress will come to town with at least some debt from their campaigns, and early fundraisers present a prime opportunity for lobbyists get to know the newest faces on Capitol Hill.

“If you’re interested in helping with debt-retirement for newly elected Members please let me know. Jackie Walorski (Ind.) and Rodney Davis (Ill.) will have debt to retire,” the Gula Graham Group’s Jon Graham wrote in the email.

Indeed, as the 113th Congress searches for the illusive grand bargain, new Members will get a swift introduction to the influence industry, to the dismay of campaign finance reformer advocates.

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