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The government has shut down, but Charlie Palmer, Johnny’s Half-Shell, The Monocle and many other local congressional fundraising haunts aren’t closed.
For some members, they might as well be.
When the government shut down last week, many members rushed to cancel long-planned events at restaurants, spas and shooting ranges. Without an edict from party leaders, members must decide individually whether it’s kosher to bring in bucks during the spending impasse.
So far, vulnerable members have rationalized that the optics of walking into a mega-donor event isn’t worth the cash.
“It’s just a moral decision that each person is making on their own,” said vulnerable Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz. “We’ve got people out of work. There’s still high unemployment in my district. This is not the time to be raising money.”
“I’m not fundraising and I am not attending fundraisers,” said Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who is running for Senate in 2014. “But I don’t know what anyone else is doing.”
Even worse, vulnerable members don’t want to get caught on tape walking into such events. The footage makes obvious fodder for future campaign ads.
Just ask Sen. Kay Hagan, a vulnerable Democrat seeking re-election in North Carolina. On Tuesday, Republicans caught her on camera walking into the National Association of Realtors to raise money.
Several more Democrats in safe seats continued to prime the pump. Reps. John D. Dingell and Sander M. Levin of Michigan and Reps. Charles B. Rangel and Nydia M. Velázquez of New York went forward with their fundraising events.
“Why shouldn’t I?” Dingell responded to a question about one of his events. “I don’t have to ask permission to have a fundraiser do I?”
Some Democrats see the shutdown as the GOP’s fault and argue that fundraising is a means to combat Republicans in the upcoming midterm elections. But other members, such as Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., canceled their events.
“Members have to make their own decisions,” said Democratic fundraiser Mike Fraioli, who raises money for Hagan, Costa and many other Democrats. “There are times when it’s been a no brainer ... but by and large it’s part of Washington.”
“It’s just not the right thing to do,” countered Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., a top GOP target in 2014. “But no one told me that. It’s just common sense.”
By comparison, Republicans are more skittish about raising money during the shutdown. One GOP operative said the only edict given to incumbents is “to use your head.”