Lobbyists’ Money as Popular as Ever

Posted February 11, 2009 at 6:35pm

President Barack Obama may have promised a new world order in Washington, D.C., but that hasn’t stopped the Congressional campaign committees from hitting up lobbyists and corporations for political action committee dollars.

Coming off of a bruising election that left all four campaign committees with massive debt, the Senate Democratic leadership and House and Senate GOP leadership have already scheduled major fundraising trips to Florida this month, all designed to encourage PACs and lobbyists to max out early in the 2010 election cycle.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has scheduled its annual first-quarter fundraising jaunt in Naples during the weekend of Feb. 28, the NRCC will be holding its winter meeting in the Keys this weekend and the NRSC has scheduled its meeting for late February in Palm Springs.

With the Democratic National Committee’s ban on lobbyist and PAC dollars staying in place, the DSCC event is expected to be an even larger draw than in years past, according to Democratic lobbyists.

The three-day event will allow lobbyists, corporate officials and other large donors to spend quality face time with lawmakers.

“People go on trips because for a weekend you get to know them as human beings,” said one Democratic lobbyist, who has attended the fundraising trips in the past. “Members are a lot less difficult on a trip.”

Since the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has opted against organizing a first-quarter fundraising retreat since taking over the majority in 2006, the opportunity to mingle with lawmakers in a relaxed setting has taken on high priority for many Democratic political powerbrokers.

Still, not everybody is packing their golf clubs and sunscreen.

The tough economy and public perception of fundraising retreats to vacation destinations has led some companies to decline the committees’ overtures.

General Motors Corp., which in past years has had employees attend fundraising weekends, will not have any representatives at the retreats, GM spokesman Greg Martin said.

The DSCC, which is now headed by Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.), has also begun to gin up its D.C. fundraising machine.

The committee has scheduled a St. Patrick’s Day reception March 17 at the Stewart R. Mott House from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The NRCC is hosting its winter meeting this weekend in the Florida Keys. The three-day meeting with major donors and PAC representatives is expected to draw several members of the House Republican Conference, including Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio), according to GOP lobbyists.

The NRCC declined to comment.

GOP Sens. Kit Bond (Mo.) and Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), co-chairmen of the Republican Senate Council, are spearheading the NRSC event Feb. 27 through March 1 at the Breakers Resort in Palm Springs.

The three-page letter to potential attendees details the highlights of the weekend meeting, which include a Friday evening reception, Saturday political briefing and breakfast before an afternoon of golf or other activities.

The event wraps up with a Saturday evening cocktail reception followed by dinner on the property.

The DCCC is taking a different fundraising tack than the other campaign committees.

While House Democrats have nixed their annual Colorado ski trip since taking over the majority, that doesn’t mean the campaign committee isn’t hitting up lobbyists and PACs for money.

The campaign committee recently announced its 2009 kickoff reception for March 11 at Union Station.

The DCCC event, which is targeting PACs, has three donor levels — $15,000 to be a host, $10,000 to be a patron and $5,000 to be a friend.

DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.), Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.), Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) and Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) are all expected to be in attendance, according to the event invitation.