Washington Post: Lawmakers seek cash during key votes

Written by admin on December 26th, 2010

The Washington Post exposes how Congress actively fund raises during the voting process.

Washington Post

Numerous times this year, members of Congress have held fundraisers and collected big checks while they are taking critical steps to write new laws, despite warnings that such actions could create ethics problems. The campaign donations often came from contributors with major stakes riding on the lawmakers’ actions.

For three weeks in June, for instance, the members of a joint House and Senate committee worked to draft final rules for regulating the financial industry in the wake of its 2008 meltdown. During that time, the 35 members of the drafting committee collected $440,000 in donations from that same industry, which was then lobbying heavily for looser rules.

Earlier this month, the chairman of the Senate committee overseeing tax policy, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), gave himself a birthday-party fundraiser – on the same day that the chamber took its first vote on an $858 billion tax package that would provide breaks to wealthy citizens and business interests.

Members of Congress contacted for this article declined to answer questions about ethics rules and the possible appearance of impropriety. Instead, they stressed that their votes can’t be bought.

The issue of the timing of donations came up this summer when reports surfaced that eight members were under investigation by the independent Office of Congressional Ethics. They had solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from financial firms just before a critical House vote last December on new regulations for Wall Street. The ethics office was looking at whether they should have avoided those donations because of the potential for or appearance of impropriety.

But just as the public learned of the ethics office’s probe in June, a conference committee of House members and senators met to draft a compromise bill on landmark Wall Street reform. The measure would force firms to follow new rules for previously secret and risky transactions that were blamed for the 2008 market meltdown. Over the course of three weeks in June, the 35 conference committee members collected $440,000 in donations from the financial industry. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of the Senate banking committee and a powerful conferee, collected the most that month – about $90,000 from financial interests.

 

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