Top Partying Spots for Congressional Fundraisers
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After months of paging through invitations we had a pretty good idea where the hottest party spots were for members of Congress and lobbyist donors. But thanks to lots of hard work cleaning up and standardizing the data in our Party Time database, now we really know.
According to these invitations, Congressional fundraisers in 2008 were clustered in a semicircle around the Capitol building in a handful of Washington private clubs, restaurants, and townhouses. The top 20 most popular partying spots accounted for more than half of the 2,117 events we analyzed. In addition to party-operated venues, a handful of pricey restaurants and private townhouses are the site of most of the festivities. Top restaurants included Johnny's Half Shell, with 120 events (chosen by Gourmet Magazine in 2000 as one of "America's Best Restaurants); Charlie Palmer Steak, with 83 (named by Washingtonian as one of the best 100 restaurants in 2008); and Bistro Bis (also in Washingtonian's top 100), with 79. See the full list of the top 20 top partying spots by clicking here.
That doesn't mean that some lawmakers don't do their fundraising in farther flung locales. There are your trips to Vegas, to Daytona International Speedway, to Yankee Stadium. Not to mention the games of golf all over the country. But for the most part, it seems like members of Congress and donors like to stay closer to their workplaces. It's just a hop, skip, or a jump from these popular party spots to Capitol Hill offices or to a vote on the House or Senate floor.
Many of the parties are at private clubs that cater to one political party or the other, such as the Capitol Hill Club and the National Democratic Club Townhouse or are at restaurants. Many are also at townhouses maintained by particular organizations, such as the Patton Boggs and UPS townhouses. One of the venues on the top 20 list was a townhouse owned by lobbyist Tim Rupli, who lobbies for such clients as the Community Financial Services Association and the Independent Community Bankers of America. The townhouse is the site of parties benefiting Democrats and Republicans.
Overall, the Sunlight Foundation's Party Time analysis documented 2,117 events in 2008. That amounts to an average of more than 176 per month or nearly six a day. Yet this is certainly an underestimate of the number of fundraising parties held by members of Congress and Congressional candidates throughout the year.
There is no legal requirement these invitations be disclosed. The Sunlight Foundation gathers them from about a dozen anonymous lobbyists sources and welcomes new submissions from trustworthy sources who would like to contribute. We post images of these invitations for viewing on the Sunlight Party Time's website (politicalpartytime.org) along with a searchable database based on the information. This is the most comprehensive collection of these invitations and the collection grows daily as we post new information.