Dems' Fundraising Dinner Short On Cash, Rich In Hypocrisy

June 18, 2009

After Dems Join Obama in Lobbyist Bashing on the Campaign Trail, Dems Hypocritically Take Their Money to Save Face for Poor Fundraising

President Obama Promised His Party “Will Not Take a Dime from Washington Lobbyists or Special Interest PACs”

“Presumptive presidential nominee Barack Obama, exerting his new power as leader of his party, has told the Democratic National Committee to eschew all contributions from Washington lobbyists and political action committees….  Speaking in Bristol, Va., he told a cheering crowd: ‘We will not take a dime from Washington lobbyists or special interest PACs. We’re going to change how Washington works. They will not fund my party. They will not run our White House. And they will not drown out the voice of the American people when I’m president of the United States of America.’” (Peter Overby, “Obama Bans DNC from Taking Lobbyists’ Money,” NPR, June 6, 2008)

In a Blatantly Hypocritical Stunt, Dems Use Obama to Get Lobbyists Into the Room, Then Take Their Cash to Avoid Bad PR for Flailing Fundraiser

President Barack Obama’s strict ban on lobbyist contributions will limit the haul from Thursday night’s fundraising dinner for congressional Democrats, but organizers have found a way around it: a morning-after event at the same hotel where lobbyists — and their money — will be welcomed with open arms.

Invitations for the $5,000-per-person Issues Conference don’t say it’s an effort to skirt Obama’s lobbying ban, but they walk right up to the edge.

“Please note that the Friday Issues Conference is NOT subject to lobbyist restrictions, though the event is intended for personal contributions only,” a finance official from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee wrote in an e-mail sent to lobbyists Tuesday and obtained by POLITICO, bolding the entire sentence to underscore the clarification. “The Issues Conference is separate from the DSCC/DCCC events with President Obama.”

One prominent Democratic lobbyist unhappy with the situation described it vividly: “It’s almost like the ugly girl that you want to call late at night — but don’t want to be seen with on a date.”

The morning-long session with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and top committee chairmen from both chambers may not comply with the spirit of Obama’s lobbying ban, but some Democrats say the White House has only itself to blame.

“They’re asleep at the switch,” said a former Democratic leadership aide who glanced at the spreadsheet for the dinner and panned it as “pathetic.” “They’re not really thinking about how these things look for other people.”

Democrats say that Obama and his top aides have done almost nothing to promote the DSCC/DCCC dinner — the campaign committees’ primary annual money-raiser — and that the president’s lobbying ban has only made matters worse.

The dinner, to be held at the tony Mandarin Oriental Hotel, is expected to bring in about $3 million — about one-fifth of what the Republicans brought in at this month’s joint dinner for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

“The whole Obama anti-lobbyist thing is having an effect on lobbyists giving personal money,” said one well-known Democratic lobbyist, who said party officials are “making it worse” by then going to lengths to make clear that their money is welcome when the president is not in the room.

One official familiar with the events sought to put the best face on the situation, arguing that Obama is bringing new money to the dinner that wouldn’t be there otherwise — and that the K Street cash will still come through at the morning-after event.

“We’ll still get the lobbyist money,” said this official. (Jonathan Martin, “Dems dodge ban on cash from lobbyists,” Politico, June 18, 2009)
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