The Buzz

From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

V.P. Biden raising cash for Grayson, Kosmas

17

August

BidenInviteTop(1) Vice President Joe Biden will be in Orlando Wednesday to help congressman Alan Grayson raise cash.

Biden is also attending a fundraiser for Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, D-New Smyrna Beach, at the same hotel on the same day. But it seems a stealth mission compared with Grayson's exuberant promotion on his Web site. "Don't miss the event of the year!" reads a headline.

Grayson's event,  however, has turned into a bit of a PR disaster because one of the hosts is a federal lobbyist. Florida hospital lobbyist Dick Batchelor stepped down after questions were raised but first engaged in e-mail war with Andy Sere, regional press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee. (see the exchange below)

Aug 12. Mr. Seré, Just a moment ago I was provided a copy of your GOP statement attacking Congressman Alan Grayson for having a “fat-cat healthcare lobbyist” as a co-sponsor of his upcoming fundraiser where Vice President Joe Biden will be the guest of honor.

This “fat-cat healthcare lobbyist” does and has since 1993 represented Florida Hospital on a number of matters in Washington during both the Clinton and Bush administration. Let me hasten to point out that the client is not much of a “fat-cat”. On the contrary, I would suggest they might be a “lean cat” inasmuch as they are a faith-based, not for profit hospital (Florida Hospital).

However, when reminded of President Barack Obama’s commitment that federally registered healthcare lobbyists, including those who might lobby members of the National Republican Congressional Committee, should not participate as co-sponsors in campaign fundraising, I readily agreed and communicated to Congressman Grayson’s staff that I wish to withdraw my name as a co-sponsor. 

In that Congressman Grayson was not aware of that fact when I was asked to co-sponsor this event and out of the deepest respect for the policy of the Obama administration, I certainly will not participate as a co-sponsor nor raise any money or attend the event. 

However, in that the National Republican Congressional Committee, whose sole purpose is to raise tens of millions of dollars for congressional incumbents and Republican challengers, has raised this issue of federal healthcare lobbyists being involved in congressional fundraising, I would like to ask for a reciprocal commitment.  Will your Republican committee take a position that no one who is currently a registered lobbyist in Washington be invited or allowed to raise any amount of money (including bundling) for any Republican congressional candidate?

This would go a long way to advance President Obama’s policy to dissuade such participation by registered lobbyists and I am confident that your committee and the Republican campaigns for which you raise money will be more than happy to take the same principled stand as the Administration.  As you probably have heard, there is an old saying in the South, “this dog won’t hunt” – let’s see if your fat-cat will!  I look forward to a prompt response.

Aug. 13
Dear Dick,

Thanks for your press release/letter.

Since you seem to be Congressman Grayson’s new spokesman and chief defender , I’m hoping you can address some unanswered questions.

1)       All invitations to events featuring White House officials must be approved by the White House. Did the White House approve the invitation with your name on it, or did Grayson send the invitation out without White House approval? In other words, who messed up here?

2)       You pledge in your letter below to “not participate as a co-sponsor nor raise any money or attend the event.” That’s all well and good from here on out, but please answer some questions about what has already transpired :

A. When was the invitation with your name on it mailed?
B. To whom of your friends and business associates was the invitation mailed?
C. To whom did you make fundraising phone calls on Grayson's behalf for this event?
D. How much money has Grayson raised for the event and how much of that is attributable to your efforts?
E. Who, specifically, has contributed money to Grayson as a result of your efforts?

 3)       In today’s Sentinel article, you claim to have “never…spoken with Grayson about health-care issues.” Quoting from the boast on your website : “July 2005: According to Orlando Magazine 's 2nd Annual ‘50 Most Powerful People,’ ‘ Dick Batchelor is one of those lobbyists with enough clout to get to anyone .’  Moving up the list to #14, ‘ he's got plenty of friends, and they owe him plenty of favors .’”

 A. Have you “gotten to” Grayson yet?
B. What “favors” does Grayson “owe” you?

4)       You also claim in both your letter and today’s Sentinel article that “Grayson was not aware” that you are a federal lobbyist. Since you are widely recognized as the “city’s top lobbyist,” as you point out on your website, why didn’t Grayson think to ask if you were registered with the federal government?  Or did he just not care about White House ethics rules?
5)       Referring back to #2D, is Grayson willing to donate to a worthy cause (and no, Willie David’s “Florida Civil Rights Association” is not an option) all monies he has received and will receive as a result of your efforts on this event?
6)       You distributed your press release within an hour of this news breaking. Did you use a media list provided by Grayson’s staff, or did you use your own?
7)       Why did it take this episode to finally shame Grayson into coming before voters and hearing their concerns about the healthcare takeover he supports? Has a time and place been set yet? By the way, do you plan on attending and yet again serving as Grayson’s chief defender when it inevitably becomes clear that Central Florida families and seniors don’t appreciate the congressman’s support for government-run healthcare and Medicare cuts?

Thanks for your attention to these questions. One final thought: the request you made for a “reciprocal commitment” in your letter below is nothing more than an attempt to distract from the central fact in this controversy: the White House imposed on their events a ban on the participation of federally-registered lobbyists, and Grayson broke that rule.

It’s not your career as a lobbyist that’s the problem – it’s the hypocrisy, Dick.

Sincerely,

Andy


 

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 4:57pm]

    

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