Dem re­former changes mind, takes lob­by­ist cash

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JIM MCELHATTON

Like other politi­cians ea­ger to show the pub­lic they’re not be­holden to Wash­ing­ton’s spe­cial in­ter­ests, Demo­cratic Rep. Ben Ray Lu­jan of New Mex­ico has proudly re­fused to take cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions from fed­eral lob­by­ists.

The fine print on his fundrais­ing no­tices made clear that “Peo­ple for Ben does not ac­cept con­tri­bu­tions from reg­is­tered fed­eral lob­by­ists,” a stance that won him praise from editorial writers in his home state as re­cently as Fe­bru­ary.

Yet on a re­cent evening, Mr. Lu­jan was the fea­tured law­maker at a Cinco de Mayothemed po­lit­i­cal fundraiser held in the Capi­tol Hill home of a prom­i­nent Wash­ing­ton lob­by­ist, Robert Raben. The fundraiser ben­e­fited the Com­mit­tee for His­panic Causes, also known as the CHC BOLD PAC, a po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee chaired by Mr. Lu­jan. More than a dozen other lawmakers were men­tioned on the in­vi­ta­tion to the fundraiser.

A Lu­jan spokesman pointed out that Mr. Raben wasn’t in at­ten­dance, but ac­knowl­edged that the con­gress­man’s po­si­tion on tak­ing cam­paign cash from lob­by­ists had changed.

“In the wake of the [Supreme Court’s] Cit­i­zens United case, which al­lows mil­lions of dol­lars from se­cre­tive third-party or­ga­ni­za­tions to flow into our elec­toral sys­tem with no accountability, we must have the re­sources nec­es­sary to fight back, stand up for the peo­ple of New Mex­ico and, given his re­spon­si­bil­ity as chair of BOLD PAC, elect Demo­cratic mem­bers to Congress,” spokesman Andrew Stod­dard wrote in email to The Wash­ing­ton Times.

In Fe­bru­ary, Mr. Lu­jan was cited by the Santa Fe New Mex­i­can as an ex­am­ple of re­form for his pol­icy of re­fus­ing do­na­tions from fed­eral lob­by­ists. Call­ing for cam­paign fi­nance re­forms in the state­house, the news­pa­per said it noted “with de­light” Mr. Lu­jan’s re­fusal of cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions from lob­by­ists, say­ing “his ex­am­ple at the fed­eral level should have state leg­is­la­tors scur­ry­ing to spon­sor this over­due re­form.”

In­deed, an in­vi­ta­tion for an fundraiser held 10 days later for Mr. Lu­jan in Wash­ing­ton in­cluded the state­ment that Peo­ple for Ben did ac­cept con­tri­bu­tions from fed­eral lob­by­ists. The same dis­clo­sure was on an in­vi­ta­tion to three sep­a­rate fundrais­ers held at the Tor­tilla Coast restau­rant in Wash­ing­ton dur­ing March, ben­e­fit­ing Mr. Lu­jan’s cam­paign.

But the warn­ing to lob­by­ists to stay away ap­pears nowhere on an in­vi­ta­tion to an up­com­ing fundraiser May 20-22, dubbed a “Santa Fe Week­end Get­away” and ask­ing for $2,500 per con­trib­u­tor - trans­porta­tion, lodg­ing and ex­penses not in­cluded. The get­away will in­clude a “wel­come din­ner, break­fast and art gallery re­cep­tion with Con­gress­man Lu­jan [. . . ] plus op­por­tu­ni­ties to visit Santa Fe’s famed museums, art gal­leries, shops, nearby casi­nos and golf cour­ses,” the in­vi­ta­tion said.

The in­vi­ta­tions to Mr. Lu­jan’s fundraiser were made pub­lic by the non­par­ti­san Sun­light Foun­da­tion, which tracks po­lit­i­cal fundrais­ing ac­tiv­i­ties among fed­eral can­di­dates.

Craig Hol­man, leg­isla­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the Wash­ing­ton­based watch­dog group Pub­lic Cit­i­zen, called Mr. Lu­jan’s de­ci­sion to take lob­by­ing con­tri­bu­tions “a vi­o­la­tion of his pledge” not to do so.

Mr. Lu­jan, 39, took of­fice in 2009 af­ter hold­ing sev­eral of­fices in the New Mex­ico gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing as a mem­ber of the state’s pub­lic reg­u­la­tion com­mis­sion. His fa­ther serves as speaker of the New Mex­ico House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Pres­i­dent Obama swore off con­tri­bu­tions from fed­eral lob­by­ists and po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tees dur­ing his 2008 cam­paign, and in­structed the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee (DNC) to fol­low the same rules.

For­mer Vir­ginia Gov. Tim Kaine, Mr. Obama’s choice for DNC chair­man in 2009, has de­cided to ac­cept lob­by­ist money now that he has left the DNC and is run­ning for a U.S. Se­nate seat in Vir­ginia in what’s ex­pected to be an ex­pen­sive race. Mr. Kaine at­tended a fundraiser this month held at a Capi­tol Hill lob­by­ing firm, Cor­ner­stone Gov­ern­ment Af­fairs.

A Kaine cam­paign spokes­woman noted that “as a can­di­date, Gov. Kaine has al­ways wel­comed law­ful do­na­tions from any­one who shares his vi­sion for progress for Vir­ginia and the nation.”

Mr. Kaine’s re­place­ment at the DNC, Rep. Deb­bie Wasser­man Schultz, has sworn off lob­by­ist and po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee do­na­tions to her con­gres­sional cam­paign now that she is run­ning the or­ga­ni­za­tion. Weeks af­ter she was named by Mr. Obama to lead the DNC, but two days be­fore she ac­tu­ally started the job, she had a fundraiser for her con­gres­sional cam­paign so­lic­it­ing po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee do­na­tions.

He has to take it if he wants to stop it: Rep. Ben Ray Lu­jan, New Mex­ico Demo­crat

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