Political Party Time

Fundraisers for three lawmakers stir up ethics investigation

The three congressmen that the Office of Congressional Ethics recommended for investigation into whether they broke ethics rules around the time of the Financial Regulatory Reform bill late last year attended multiple Capitol Hill fundraisers on the days leading up to crucial votes on the bill.

Earlier this year, the independent OCE opened an investigation into 8 lawmakers who received a high level of campaign contributions from the financial industry leading up to the House vote to approve the overhaul on Dec. 11. The OCE dismissed the cases of five lawmakers, and recommended that the House Ethics Committee go forward with three, the New York Times reported.

Here's what we know about the three lawmakers' fundraisers: Joseph Crowley's, D-N.Y., evening fundraiser occurred at the home of a lobbyist who was paid to lobby on the bill, and the event took place while the House was debating a series of amendments that would have strengthened the bill. The invitation to Tom Price's, R-Ga., fundraising luncheon, also on Dec. 10, was specifically aimed at the financial services sector.

The connection between the fundraisers held by John Campbell, R- Calif., and the financial industry is less clear. One of the two events he held on Dec. 9 was at the home of defense industry lobbyists Christopher Perkins and Fleming “Mike” Legg.

All three lawmakers have influential finance-related posts. Crowley is the vice chair of finance at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and serves on the tax writing Ways and Means Committee. Price is the chair of the Republican Study Committee, and he and John Campbell sit on the Financial Services Committee.

In one of the dismissal letters, obtained by the Times, sent to Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, the OCE hinted at why they cleared these five lawmakers, and why the three others may be in hot water. Hensarling was found not to have: “solicited or accepted contributions in a manner which gave the appearance of special treatment or access was being provided to donors or the appearance that the contributions were linked to an official act.”

The e-mail invitation to the event at Legg's D Street townhouse was sent out on Nov. 17, 2009, from Michael Gula of the GOP fundraising firm, the Gula Graham Group, and asked donors to attend a “California Wine Tasting” headlined by Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va. Gula wrote:

“The wine tasting will be at 123 D St., SE right around the corner from the [Capitol Hill Club]. We will have multiple wines from California to try. Any chance you can do $500 of $1K to help Congressman Campbell?"

The e-mail also asks donors to attend another fundraiser earlier that day, a lunch at the Capitol Hill Club, a private GOP club steps from the Capitol, headlined by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.

As for Crowley, during the Dec. 10 debate over amendments, he left to attend his holiday fundraiser at financial sector lobbyist Julie Domenick's home, which doubled as her office. He then came back to vote against amendments that would have strengthened the bill, the Times reported.

Domenick told the Center for Public Integrity that she was asked in early November if the Crowley campaign could use her home for a holiday party, and that the event had nothing to do with the House votes.  At least two dozen fundraisers have been planned at her home these past two years, according to Party Time's database.

Crowley was supposed to attend two other events on Dec. 9 and 10. He was listed as a host for an Adam Smith, D-Wash., fundraiser at a Capitol Hill eatery. The day before, he was scheduled to be at another Hill watering hole, Charlie Palmer Steak, to raise money for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee – he serves as the group's vice chair for finance.

Price's lunch was also at the Capitol Hill Club, headlined by Financial Services Committee ranking member Spencer Bachus, R-Ala. Price also held a fundraising breakfast there on Dec. 2, the day the overhaul bill was voted out of committee.

Click here for a list of other fundraisers hosted by lobbyists for the financial industry.