Congress' Never-Ending Political Money Chase Explored

Congress' Never-Ending Political Money Chase Explored
UNITED STATES - Jan 14: Rep. Kristi Noem, R-SD., during a news conference after the House Republican Caucus in the U.S. Capitol on January 14, 2014. (Photo By Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - Jan 14: Rep. Kristi Noem, R-SD., during a news conference after the House Republican Caucus in the U.S. Capitol on January 14, 2014. (Photo By Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

This story was published by The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.

There's no better proof that U.S. elections never end than the fundraising scene this month in Washington, D.C.

No matter that Election Day 2014 isn't even two weeks past and Election Day 2016 is 721 days away: Lawmakers (and soon-to-be lawmakers) are using Congress' lame duck session to generate cash wherever they can get it.

Some are bent on retiring debt incurred a historically expensive midterm campaign. Others are spending their time back in the nation's capital filling their coffers for political battles two or more years away.

Here are 10 politicos already back on the fundraising trail, according to documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity:

  • Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., will hold court Wednesday evening at Rosa Mexicano in D.C.'s Chinatown neighborhood. The minimum donation to attend the cash fiesta is $1,000. Booker easily won re-election this month and isn't up for re-election until 2020. As of Oct. 15, his campaign reported nearly $2.6 million cash on hand.

  • For a minimum contribution of $500, on Thursday you may attend a "debt retirement reception" with Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, who avoided involuntary political retirement after defeating upstart independent challenger Greg Orman on Nov. 4. The reception will be conducted at 220 E St. NE in D.C., according to an invitation. That's notable since the address belongs to lobbying firm R.B. Murphy and Associates, whose clients this year have included tobacco company Altria Group, Google and DirecTV. Roberts' campaign had no debt as of Oct. 15 and more than $927,000 cash on hand, according to disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission.

  • Sen.-elect Ben Sasse, R-Neb., conducted a fundraising breakfast last Friday. "This is to help retire his primary debt ... If you can't help with this one, but want to help Ben with debt retirement please let me know," Sasse fundraiser Jon Graham wrote a prospective donor last week. The Sasse campaign reported $1.64 million cash on hand and more than $516,000 in debt as of Oct. 15, according to disclosures filed with the FEC. Sasse had personally loaned his campaign more $113,000 through mid-October.

  • Rep.-elect Bob Dold, R-Ill., this month won back a seat in Congress he lost in 2013. On Wednesday evening, he will host a reception at the City Tap House in D.C. to "celebrate his election and retire his debt," according to an email from fundraiser Katy Cannon to a prospective donor. Cannon also told the prospective donor that Dold is available to meet in more intimate settings. "If you can't make this event, Bob will be in DC until November 20th and would love to get together for a 1-1," Cannon wrote in the email. "Please let me know if you would like to schedule a time. We will also be doing a series of industry meet and greets. Please let me know if you would like to help get your industry together for one." As of Oct. 15, Dold's campaign reported to the FEC more than $1 million in the bank and just $3,000 in debt — for furniture rentals.

  • Rep.-elect Ken Buck, R-Colo., is inviting previous campaign donors to a free "thank you reception" Wednesday night at the Capitol Hill Club in D.C. If you've never donated to Buck, you're still invited — for a recommended contribution of $500, or $1,000 if you represent a political action committee. Buck easily won election Nov. 4 and had reported more than $222,000 cash on hand and no debt through Oct. 15.

  • Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., is also throwing a "thank you reception" on Dec. 10 at Del Frisco's Grille in D.C. While those who contributed during the 2014 election cycle aren't required to again pony up, new supporters don't appear they'll get a free pass — although the invitation itself does not list suggested levels of financial support. Richmond won a third term this month.

  • Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., is pleading with D.C. donors for money to fund his vote recount effort following a campaign against Republican Martha McSally that ended with her less than 200 votes up on him. "Congressman Barber is committed to ensuring that every lawful vote is counted and that the voices of Southern Arizona are heard," the "Ron Barber Recount Fund" and the "Arizona Democratic Party Voter Protection Fund" wrote in a joint email that was received by a D.C.-based lobbyist. "As it will be weeks before this process is complete, Congressman Barber's campaign will need additional resources to cover costly legal fees and other recount-related expenses."

  • Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., doesn't face re-election until 2018. But that's not preventing him from conducting a "holiday lunch" on Dec. 3 in D.C., with entry to the gathering going for $1,000, according to an invitation. Sen.-elect Gary Peters, D-Mich., is listed as a "special guest," although the money raised will go to Casey's campaign. The invitation also notes that Casey's campaign will be conducting a fundraiser in March in Sarasota, Fla., during Pittsburgh Pirates spring training.

  • Sonoma restaurant will play host Wednesday afternoon to Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., where a $500 contribution is required to get one through the door.
  • It appears no federal-level candidate was quicker to raise money after Election Day than Sen.-elect Tom Cotton, R-Ark., whose campaign on Nov. 5 sent out an invite for a D.C. fundraiser that took place Thursday. The evening event, held at Capitol Hill restaurant Johnny's Half Shell, required a minimum $500 contribution.
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