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When will our government cease being corrupt ??

February 11, 2007
Congress Finds Ways to Avoid Lobbyist Limits

WASHINGTON, Feb. 10 — The 110th Congress opened with the passage of new rules intended to curb the influence of lobbyists by prohibiting them from treating lawmakers to meals, trips, stadium box seats or the discounted use of private jets.

But it did not take long for lawmakers to find ways to keep having lobbyist-financed fun.

In just the last two months, lawmakers invited lobbyists to help pay for a catalog of outings: lavish birthday parties in a lawmaker’s honor ($1,000 a lobbyist), martinis and margaritas at Washington restaurants (at least $1,000), a California wine-tasting tour (all donors welcome), hunting and fishing trips (typically $5,000), weekend golf tournaments ($2,500 and up), a Presidents’ Day weekend at Disney World ($5,000), parties in South Beach in Miami ($5,000), concerts by the Who or Bob Seger ($2,500 for two seats), and even Broadway shows like “Mary Poppins” and “The Drowsy Chaperone” (also $2,500 for two).

The lobbyists and their employers typically end up paying for the events, but within the new rules.

Instead of picking up the lawmaker’s tab, lobbyists pay a political fund-raising committee set up by the lawmaker. In turn, the committee pays the legislator’s way.

Lobbyists and fund-raisers say such trips are becoming increasingly popular, partly as a quirky consequence of the new ethics rules.

By barring lobbyists from mingling with a lawmaker or his staff for the cost of a steak dinner, the restrictions have stirred new demand for pricier tickets to social fund-raising events.

Lobbyists say that the rules might even increase the volume of contributions flowing to Congress from K Street, where many lobbying firms have their offices.

Some lawmakers acknowledge that some fund-raising trips resemble the lobbyist-paid junkets that Congress voted to prohibit.

Jennifer Crider, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said its leaders had decided to stop holding fund-raising events for lobbyists with political action committees because of the seeming inconsistency.

So the committee canceled its annual Colorado ski weekend for lobbyists and lawmakers to raise money for the next campaign. Gone, too, is its Maryland hunting trip with Representative John D. Dingell of Michigan, the avid hunter who is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

But other Congressional party campaign committees have not stopped their events, including the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s annual Nantucket weekend for donors who contribute $25,000. And individual lawmakers are still playing host to plenty of events themselves.

Once again . . . When will our government cease being corrupt ??

               Political parties
               break soft money
               fund-raising records

               June 6, 2000 
               Web posted at: 2:22 PM EDT
               (1822 GMT) 

               By Beth Fouhy/CNN

               WASHINGTON (CNN) -- It
               may be the ultimate love-hate
               relationship: politicians and soft
               money. Because, despite all the
               handshakes, the legislation and
               the proclamations, the political
               parties can't get enough of it --
               and they're raking it in like
               never before. 

               According to newly released
               figures by the Federal Election
               Commission, the Republican
               party and its campaign
               committees raised $86.4 million
               in soft money between January
               1, 1999 and March 31st, 2000.
               That's a staggering 93 percent
               increase over the same period
               in the 1995-1996 election

               Democrats did almost as well,
               raising $77 million for its party
               committees, about 94 percent
               above the 1995-1996 figures. 

               It was the Democrats'
               aggressive fund-raising tactics
               in 1996 that called attention to
               the easily-exploitable, soft
               money loophole. Congressional
               hearings and a Justice
               Department investigation
               depicted a fund-raising machine
               nearly out of control -- with the
               party accepting illegal overseas
               donations, and President Bill
               Clinton personally vetting
               so-called issue ads that clearly
               advocated his re-election. 

               The 1996 controversy also
               painted an unflattering portrait
               of Vice President Al Gore. In
               addition to his infamous visit to
               a Buddhist Temple for an
               illegal fund-raiser, Gore
               narrowly escaped an
               independent counsel
               investigation after he admitted
               making some 71 soft-money
               solicitations from his White
               House office -- despite his
               claims that "no controlling legal
               authority" presided over the
               fund-raising tactic. 

               Democrats argue that
               Republicans have long been the
               main beneficiaries of soft
               money, pointing to
               Republicans' efforts to thwart
               bipartisan legislation sponsored
               by Sens. John McCain
               (R-Arizona) and Russ Feingold
               (D-Wisconsin) that would have
               banned it. 

               So while both parties argue, the
               money keeps rolling in. The
               new FEC figures don't even
               reflect the two parties' most
               recent huge fund-raisers -- a
               $21 million Republican gala in
               April, and a blue jeans and
               barbecue bash for the
               Democratic National
               Committee last month that
               raised $26 million. 

               The two parties are now baiting
               one another over who will be
               the first to go on the air with
               issue ads, paid for by soft
               money. Judging from the new
               FEC figures, they'll both have a
               lot of it to work with. 

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This page is dated February 2007