Political Party Time

Ethics Report allows rare look into Washington's fundraiser culture

Over on Sunlight’s reporting site is a story about the blurred separation between official staffers and the campaign staff of Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., before a crucial House vote on a bill to overhaul the financial regulatory system.

Using Document Cloud while doing research for the story, we made over 100 notes to the House Committee on Ethics report, which cleared Crowley and two other lawmakers of granting special access to Wall Street interests. In the notes, we have provided background information and links on the lobbyists who are featured on rarely-seen fundraiser attendance lists and who exchanged emails with the three lawmakers’ staffers leading up to the events.

We have also noted some of the Ethics Committee’s main arguments and some interesting details about Washington’s fundraiser culture in the annotation:

*In some cases, prior to going to a fundraiser, attendees (or their PACs) have already committed contributing a certain amount. For instance, KPMG committed $2,500 for a John Campbell, R-Calif., event on Oct. 21, 2009, but the campaign did not disclose receiving the check to the Federal Election Commission until about a month later, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, making it much harder to link a campaign donation to an official action, as the report found.

*The three members’ chiefs of staff and top legislative aides attended many of their fundraisers. Rep. Campbell’s legislative aide for financial services said he goes to about three quarters of his boss’s fundraisers.

The report also includes some interesting tidbits and partisan jabs:

*One lobbyist modestly questioned how appropriate Campbell’s financial services fundraiser was, considering it was the night before a crucial markup on the overhaul bill.

*Asked why his boss held a fundraiser on the same day as the vote, Rep. Tom Price’s, R-Ga., chief of staff compared the Democrats to the The Boy Who Cried Wolf because they “had a habit of yanking votes.” He said he had no way of knowing the vote would actually happen when they said it would.

Party Time even plays a role in the investigation:

*The lawyers for both Price and Campbell used Party Time’s data in their client’s defense. Campbell’s lawyer noted that members of the Financial Services Committee hold similar fundraisers all the time. Committee members put on 109 of them between Oct. 21 and Dec. 11, 2009, he wrote.