Fi­nan­cial lob­by­ists wooed top con­gres­sional ne­go­tia­tors

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JIM MCELHATTON

Key House mem­bers weigh­ing a $700 bil­lion Wall Street bailout have filled their cam­paign cof­fers this year at more than 250 fundrais­ing par­ties hosted by fi­nan­cial-sec­tor lob­by­ists, in­clud­ing a beer tast­ing and a Wash­ing­ton Red­skins game, ac­cord­ing to a watch­dog group.

Nancy Watz­man, di­rec­tor of the non­par­ti­san Sun­light Foun­da­tion’s Party Time project, which tracks cam­paign fundrais­ers, said the same House mem­bers who were “wined, dined and sushied” by the fi­nan­cial sec­tor are de­cid­ing the fate of the largest pro­posed fi­nan­cial in­dus­try bailout in U.S. his­tory.

Ac­cord­ing to the foun­da­tion, a “beer tast­ing” fundraiser for one com­mit­tee mem­ber, Rep. Tom Feeney, Florida Repub­li­can, was held July 30 and hosted by sev­eral lob­by­ists, in­clud­ing one for Cit­i­group Man­age­ment Corp.

But a Feeney spokes­woman, Pep­per Pen­ning­ton, said such events don’t sway the con­gress­man.

“The con­tri­bu­tions have no in- flu­ence on Tom Feeney’s prin­ci­ples or his leg­isla­tive ac­tiv­ity,” she said, adding that a re­cent Wall Street Jour­nal ar­ti­cle quoted Mr. Feeney as rail­ing against the “failed reg­u­la­tion, reck­less man­age­ment and casino cul­ture on Wall Street.”

An­other in­vi­ta­tion ob­tained by the Sun­light Foun­da­tion touted a fundraiser for Demo­cratic Rep. Gre­gory W. Meeks of New York at FedEx Field for the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins’ Sept. 14 win against the New Orleans Saints. A spokes­woman for Mr. Meeks did not re­spond to ques­tions about the fundraiser by dead­line Sept. 24.

Yet an­other in­vi­ta­tion in­cluded a July 29 “sushi re­cep­tion” for Rep. Kenny Marchant, Texas Repub­li­can. But Mr. Marchant’s chief of staff, Brian Thomas, said the event “didn’t take place.”

“In gen­eral, we do have events, just as the Democrats do,” Mr. Thomas said. “Do peo­ple sup­port you if you sup­port their is­sues? Ab­so­lutely. But there are a lot of is- sues in the fi­nan­cial ser­vices com­mu­nity, and we’re on both sides on the is­sues — no­body is buy­ing any­one with sushi.”

There’s no law man­dat­ing that law­mak­ers or lob­by­ists dis­close po­lit­i­cal fundrais­ing so­lic­i­ta­tions, but in­vi­ta­tions are reg­u­larly sent, Ms. Watz­man said. She said the foun­da­tion col­lects hun­dreds of fundrais­ing in­vi­ta­tions, but she noted it’s likely events such as the “sushi re­cep­tion” are can­celed.

But Ms. Watz­man also said there’s no way to know for sure be­cause the fundrais­ers are usu­ally closed to the pub­lic. Call­ing for greater trans­parency, she said she tried to at­tend the fundrais­ers at

Nancy Watz­man, di­rec­tor of the non­par­ti­san Sun­light Foun­da­tion’s Party Time project, which tracks cam­paign fundrais­ers, said the same House mem­bers who were “wined, dined and sushied” by the fi­nan­cial sec­tor are de­cid­ing the fate of the largest pro­posed fi­nan­cial in­dus­try bailout in U.S. his­tory.

the re­cent Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can po­lit­i­cal con­ven­tions, but was reg­u­larly turned away.

The foun­da­tion is­sued its find­ings on fundrais­ers one day af­ter a sep­a­rate re­port by the non­par­ti­san Cen­ter for Re­spon­sive Pol­i­tics (CRP) raised ques­tions about the in­flu­ence of fi­nan­cial sec­tor po­lit­i­cal con­tri­bu­tions in a key fi­nan­cial dereg­u­la­tion bill.

Ac­cord­ing to the CRP, mem­bers of Congress who voted to dereg­u­late banks by sup­port­ing the 1999 Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Mod­ern­iza­tion Act were far more likely to fill their cam­paign cof­fers with do­na­tions from fi­nan­cial sec­tor than politi­cians who op­posed eas­ing re­stric­tions.

The cen­ter’s anal­y­sis in­cluded pres­i­den­tial cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions, too. So Sens. John McCain, Barack Obama, John Kerry and Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton — all of whom raised tens of mil­lions of dol­lars for their White House bids — topped the list of re­cip­i­ents.

Mr. McCain was ab­sent for the dereg­u­la­tion vote, while Mr. Kerry sup­ported it along with Mr. Obama’s run­ning mate, Sen. Joseph R. Bi­den Jr. Nei­ther Mrs. Clin­ton nor Mr. Obama were in the Se­nate in 1999.

One prom­i­nent dereg­u­la­tion sup­porter, Sen. Christo­pher J. Dodd, Con­necti­cut Demo­crat, chair­man of the Se­nate bank­ing com­mit­tee, re­ceived $13.2 mil­lion in con­tri­bu­tions from the fi­nan­cial sec­tor from 1989 to this year, ac­cord­ing to the cen­ter.

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