Sunday, December 17, 2017
Politics

Lawmakers raise campaign cash amid omnibus debate

WASHINGTON — Negotiations over the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill aren't the only thing on Congress' to-do list that will stretch into next week.

Lawmakers of both parties have scheduled nearly 100 fundraising events in D.C. to collect money from K Street and business interests for their re-election campaigns.

"One of the phenomena of this time of year is that, really, only a handful of members are involved in the decision process, but everybody's gotta hang around," said GOP lobbyist and donor Ken Kies. "Since they're going to be here, why not have a fundraiser?"

Lobbyists can mingle with senators and House members at early morning coffees to evening dinners and receptions, according to invitations and fundraiser lists sent to K Streeters and provided to CQ Roll Call. A stopgap resolution will keep the government running through midnight Wednesday and gives lawmakers time to work out final details on a fiscal 2016 omnibus spending bill.

"There really aren't that many opportunities as good as this," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. "There's a bit more of a frenzy to it. You don't have an omnibus every day."

She noted that "everybody in town has a rider they'd like to attach to the omnibus" — or has some stake in the year-end debate — and fundraisers provide valuable opportunities for K Street to glean intelligence on the process.

Many events next week capitalize on the holiday season.

Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., for one, can boogie with donors Monday at the Verizon Center's Jingle Ball 2015 concert. The price of admission for the fundraiser is $2,000 for political action committees and $1,000 for individual tickets. An organizer of the event, Paula Dukes, did not respond to a request seeking comment.

Though lawmakers learned for sure this week they'd need to stick around longer than some were previously expecting, as Congress pushed back its midnight Friday deadline to arrive at a 2016 spending deal, many fundraisers were already on the books.

"Most events that have been scheduled would have been scheduled three weeks to a month in advance," said Democratic fundraiser Mike Fraioli.

Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, is planning a reception Tuesday to benefit his Castro for Congress campaign, according to a list circulated by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. An organizer did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Lobbyists can also get in on the seasonal merriment with a cocktail, cigar and holiday cheer reception for Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., at the Diageo townhouse on Capitol Hill. Diageo is a spirits, beer and wine company whose brands include Captain Morgan and Smirnoff. Tillis was first elected last year, and doesn't face voters again until 2020.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who is on the 2016 ballot, is accepting donations of $1,000 per individual to attend his Cookies and Cocoa reception at the Hotel George on Wednesday. The next day, Blunt is breakfasting with the National Association of Homebuilders at the Monocle on Capitol Hill. Organizers did not respond to emails seeking details.

Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., is also holding a holiday party to benefit his campaign on Tuesday, while House GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., is hosting a luncheon Wednesday at Charlie Palmer Steak with special guest House Budget Chairman Tom Price.

Kies says the fundraisers next week are no surprise, as the dash for political money intensifies heading into the 2016 elections.

"Every day I receive, at a minimum, 50 email requests for fundraisers," he said.

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