WASHINGTON, DC – Some 258 parties, a number of them hosted by lobbyists for the finance, insurance, and real estate industries, have been thrown for members of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee this year, according to an investigation by the Sunlight Foundation’s Party Time project. Members of the House committee, along with the Senate Banking Committee, are considering the $700 billion bailout legislation for the financial sector proposed by the administration.
A sampling of parties include:
- A “financial services” luncheon on September 16 for Rep. Dean Heller at the Capitol Hill Club. The cost for entry was $500 for individuals, $1,000 for PACs. Heller has collected $190,252 from the financial sector for his congressional elections out of a total of $1,242,583, or 15.3 percent, according to the Center for Responsive Politics
- An invitation from the Real Estate Roundtable PAC on September 14 for Rep. Gregory Meeks to watch the New Orleans Saints play the Washington Redskins play at FedEx Field. The cost: $1,000. Meeks has taken $1,015,432 from the financial sector over his congressional career, 27.8 percent of his fundraising total of $3,657,984
- A beer tasting for Rep. Tom Feeney on July 30, hosted by a list of lobbyists. These included Maura Solomon, a lobbyist for Citigroup Management Corp. The cost was $250 for a host, $100 to attend, and $1,000 for a PAC. Feeney has taken $1,260,480 from the financial sector in his elections for Congress, 22.1 percent of his total of $5,705,257
- A sushi reception for Rep. Kenny Marchant on July 29. The party was hosted by Greg Mesack and Doyle Barlett, whose firm, the Eris Group, represents a number of banks, as well as Freddie Mac, Morgan Stanley and the Mortgage Bankers Association. Attendees were asked to pay $2,000 for a host, $1,000 for a PAC, and $500 per individual. Marchant has taken $449,813 from the finance, insurance, and real estate industries for his congressional elections, 23.4 percent of his fundraising total of $1,921,414, or 23.4 percent
- A “summer happy hour” for Rep. Michael Capuano on July 24. The party was hosted by REIT (National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts) PAC and InsurPAC, the PAC for the Independent Insurance Agents of America. Lobbyist hosts included Langston Emerson, who lobbies for the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts; Tom Koonce, a lobbyist for the Independent Insurance Agents of America. The suggested contribution was $1,000. Capuano has collected $813,176 from the financial sector over the course of his congressional career, or 18.5 percent of his total fundraising of $4,402,712, or 18.5 percent.
“The very lawmakers in Congress who are making the decisions about the most massive proposed bailout of industry in history are those who have been wined, dined, and sushi-ed by lobbyists the financial sector,” said Nancy Watzman, director of the Party Time project. “But it’s almost impossible to get this information, because of an embarrassing lack of transparency about the web of relationships connecting lawmakers and lobbyists.”
There is no official requirement that these party invitations be reported to the public, although they go out by the dozen to lobbyists. The Sunlight Foundation collects them from sources whose anonymity is protected. Many of the invitations state that lawmakers are members of a particular committee as a draw for donors. While some invitations list hosts who can be looked up on federal lobbying records to see their affiliations, as illustrated above, many do not. With regulations on disclosures of bundling on hold with the U.S. Federal Election Commission (FEC), there is no simple way to trace how much money is raised at such events and from whom.
*Campaign contribution data from Center for Responsive Politics
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