The Los Angeles Times weighs in on the incoming legislators’ rush to embrace the very things they campaigned against; lobbyists and their campaign dollars.
The new class of Republican lawmakers who charged into office promising to shun the ways of Washington officially arrives on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. But even as they publicly bash the capital’s culture, many have quietly begun to embrace it.
Several freshmen have hired lobbyists — the ultimate Washington insiders — to lead their congressional staffs. In the weeks leading up to Wednesday’s swearing-in, dozens of the newcomers joined other lawmakers in turning to lobbyists for campaign cash. And on Wednesday, congressional offices will be packed with lawmakers’ relatives, friends, constituents and lobbyists, all invited to celebrate the new Congress.
This picture of business-as-usual Washington clashes with the campaign rhetoric of many newcomers, some who were propelled by support from the anti-Washington “tea party” movement. It also muddles the image House Republicans hoped to project as they took the helm this week. In contrast to the public celebration thrown by Democrat Nancy Pelosi when she became speaker four years ago, incoming House Speaker John A. Boehner has tried to strike a subdued and earnest note as he takes up the gavel.
So it raised eyebrows Tuesday when several House freshmen held a fundraiser in a swanky Washington hotel. The event, organized in part by California Rep.-elect Jeff Denham (R-Atwater), stood out as the flashiest celebration of the new Congress.
“It’s important. Without money, the machine doesn’t move,” said Javier Ortiz, a GOP strategist and fundraiser, about the week’s schedule of fundraisers and other events. “No one should be surprised that newly elected or long-serving members ask interested constituents and others to support their campaigns by making donations.”
Still, House leaders did not celebrate the Tuesday night fundraiser at the W hotel. Boehner declined to attend. The offices of incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Majority Whip-elect Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) did not respond to requests for comments on the event, though one of the hosts said McCarthy had committed to attend.
A thumping techno beat filled the barroom lobby of the W hotel as guests entered for what was billed as a welcome party for the incoming freshman class. The fundraising event was hosted by the New Majority PAC, a committee formed in November by Denham, a former state senator from California’s Central Valley, as well as incoming GOP Reps. Steve Southerland of Florida, Renee Ellmers of North Carolina, Robert Dold of Illinois and Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee. Southerland, Ellmers, Denham and DesJarlais all enjoyed tea party support.
Talking with reporters before the event, Denham said the political action committee was formed to help make the freshman class of Republicans “self-reliant so we will have all the funds we need to hold our seats.” He said the fundraiser, featuring country singer LeAnn Rimes, was held to mark “an exciting time for our nation.” He made no apologies about the $2,500-per-ticket entry fee.