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D.C. lobbyists drive Burr's fundraising

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Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., formally announced his reelection bid on Feb. 22, 2010, with an open house at his Winston-Salem campaign headquarters, but the first term member has been raising money since he took office.  Since January 2009 alone, he and his campaign have sent out at least 38 invitations to fundraisers, according to our Party Time database, the great majority of them in Washington, D.C. The events have helped him raise a total of $6.7 million, $4.3 million of which he still has in the bank.

Lobbyists and Political Action Committees (PACs), some of whom represent Burrs biggest donors, are hosts of many of these functions. One upcoming eventscheduled for March 17lists 25 hosts alone. These include Robert Chamberlin of McBee Strategic Consulting, whose clients include FedEx Corp, a top donor to Burrs campaign fund, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Ed Kutler, a lobbyist for Clark & Weinstock, represents another top campaign donor, AmerisourceBergen. Another host is Charles Symington, who represents the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, a top donor to Burrs leadership PAC, the Next Century Fund.

In all, half of the top 20 donors to Burrs campaign from 2005-2010 are represented by lobbyists or PACs hosting fundraising events for the senator, including Reynolds American, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and GlaxoSmithKline. The records do not reveal whether employees of these companies or PACs actually attended the events. Though lobbyists and lobbying firms were frequently listed in Burr's fundraising invitations, the campaign has not identified any bundled contributions raised by lobbyists to the Federal Elections Commission. The requirements for reporting bundled contributions are weak, and are easily avoided.

Of the 38 parties that raised money for Burr since January 2009, 33 of them were held in Washington, D.C., and featured 54 registered lobbyists and 21 PACs as hostsall representing interests with business before Congress. These lobbyists and PACs have collectively given Burrs campaign committee directly more than $106,000 in contributions, and provided opportunities for access for other donors.

Burr began 2009 as one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents, with low approval ratings in the Tarheel state, but recent polling numbers show him less vulnerable than he had been. Politico pegged Burrs race a bellwether for the national zeitgeistif things seem to be swinging the GOPs way, he shouldnt have much trouble winning a second term. A recent Rasmussen poll shows he leads both of his potential Democratic rivals by wide margins. Cook Political Report currently lists the VA race as likely Republican.

Though his political fortunes have changed, Burr continues to hold fundraising events at a prodigious pace, attracting a wide range of Washington insiders to his campaign events:

    Last March, nine lobbyists from the Podesta Group broke from the Democratic proclivities of their boss, Tony Podesta, and were hosts for donors invited to a breakfast with Burr. Among the companies some of them represent, which are donors to Burr: Genzyme, Tyco International, and General Electric. Collectively, these lobbyists gave Burr $5,500, spread over the period from March to June. (The nine lobbyists are: Sharon Cohen, Kimberley Fritts, Randall Gerard, Lauren Maddox, David Marin, Elizabeth Morra, John Scofield, John Shank, and Missi Tessier.)

    Four lobbyists from BGR Holding, whose president, Bob Wood, used to work for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, hosted this breakfast on June 11 for the senator. Together, the lobbyists represent a long list of clients, including such Burr top donors as GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer Inc. Of the four lobbyists--Bob Wood, Jennifer Larkin, Lukawski, Loren Monroe, Mary-Lacey Reuther--Lukawski and Reuther each contributed $500 to Burr on June 29, 2009.

    On June 24, several lobbyists representing Con-way, the trucking firm, hosted a breakfast for Burr; also listed as hosts were the PACs for the lobbying firm hired by the company, Venable LLP, and the company itself, which have each given Burr $2,500. Jim Burnley and John O'Neil both represent Con-Way at Venable; Randy Mullett (see his bio here) is  vice president of government relations and government affairs for the company. The fourth host, Diann Howland, lobbies for the American Benefits Council, where she focuses on benefits issues. She's listed as giving the senator $1,000 on June 29. Conway hired Venable in part to lobby on pension issues.

Burrs office did not return phone calls seeking information about these fundraisers.