Where There is a Rule, The Congressmen Will Find a Way Around It

The New York Times February 11, 2007

Congress Finds Ways to Avoid Lobbyist Limits DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK

The 110th Congress controlled by the Democrats came in like a horse with it’s tail on fire and made a bunch of new laws and regulation. Their famous “100 Hours”. Right up top was lobbying reform. No more could lobbyist treat a Congressman to a steak dinner or a ride in a company jet or any other form of gift giving. Boy the law was being laid down and Congressman who sold their vote were going to be slapped back in line. From here on out the only thing a Congressman could take from a lobbyist was a campaign contribution. There! That’ll get ‘em!

So what do our ever inventive Congress people do? They have all lobbyist make payments to their political fund raising committee for anything and everything they can think of and then their ticket or the event is paid for out of the campaign war chest, and of course lobbyist are invited guests. No problem. They still get the money, and maybe even more than before and they don’t break any rules, regulations or laws.

“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 breaking of the rules without breaking the rules is “allowed, and increasingly common, because of a combination of loopholes. First, the ethics rules restrict personal gifts but not political contributions, so paying to attend a fund-raiser is still legitimate. Second, the “personal use” restrictions apply to lawmakers’ re-election campaigns but not to their personal political action committees, which can spend money on almost anything. Lawmakers use their personal PACs to sponsor most of the events. (Lawyers disagree about whether Congressional ethics rules restrict personal use of members’ PACs.)

"The lawmakers’ so-called leadership PACs began proliferating about two decades ago, initially as vehicles for senior members of Congress to build loyalty among their colleagues by funneling money to their campaigns.” But now even the new members have them so that they can use them to maneuver around the lobbying restrictions among other things.

If you want a run down on what Congressmen have gone where and done what during the last two months you will have to go to The New York Times article. It is all just too funny. And sad.