Dems, GOP Court Lobbyists at Summer Getaways

Lobbyists go on retreat weekends with powerful lawmakers.

July 20, 2009, 6:28 PM

July 22, 2009— -- It's summertime, and the giving's easy, as Senate Democrats and Republicans throw weekend getaways for some of their well-connected donors.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee last weekend brought well-heeled lobbyists to hobnob with roughly 30 Democratic senators – that's nearly a third of the entire Senate – in posh Martha's Vineyard, Mass., according to the Hill newspaper.

The paper tweaked Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-CT, for attending the event, after boasting in his campaign literature that he did not listen to special interests. "You almost have to feel sorry for the poor lobbyists," read Dodd's campaign Web site. "They just can't get Chris Dodd to listen to them." Dodd, a senior senator, plays a key role in crafting policy in such important areas as health care and finance.

Republicans are bringing their high-rolling donors to the top-shelf Four Seasons Hotel in Jackson Hole, Wyo. next month. There, the National Republican Senatorial Committee will bring nine senators together with some of their party's supporters for three days and two nights of shop talk and outdoor fun, according to an invitation obtained by the Sunlight Foundation's Political Party Time blog.

Summer Lobbying

The NRSC's guests will enjoy two and a half hours of briefings with the senators, followed by four and a half hours of "optional" golf, fly fishing, horseback riding or river rafting.

Neither group responded to requests for comment for this story.

Tickets for such events can go for many thousands of dollars. In 2006, the DSCC collected $25,000 a head to eat lobster and slap backs at their weekend retreat in Nantucket, Mass., ABC News reported at the time. The NRSC commanded $15,000 a person for a similar weekend at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia.

The events are considered "donor maintenance," according to Bill Allison, an expert with the Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group the Sunlight Foundation. "They discuss policy with them in a way that the average American can never match," said Allison. And that makes for bad policy, he said.

"What you end up with is legislation that's acceptable to a wide array of special interests, but not crafted to take care of the public interest."

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