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'Do Nothing' Congress Gets Busy - Raising Campaign Cash Jul 30, 2014, 10:58 AM ET
By BENJAMIN SIEGEL

If you’re looking for a senator or member of Congress this week, you may have better luck at The Capital Grille than the Capitol.

This final stretch of July is not just the last chance for Congress to address highway funding and the border crisis before a five-week vacation. It’s also the end of the summer fundraising circuit in one of the most expensive midterms election cycles in history, the last chance to collect checks in Washington before the fall campaign season ties down incumbents and candidates in their home districts and states.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress are holding at least 100 fundraisers in Washington in the days leading up to the August recess, according to fundraising lists obtained by ABC News, with senators who aren’t even on the ballot in 2014 holding events.

With contributions ranging from $50 to $5,000, Washington politicos can join representatives and senators for breakfast, lunch and dinner – or all three.

The events don’t stop at meals.

Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Louisiana Democrat, is hosting a happy hour event after work today, while Rep. Jim McDermott, a Washington Democrat, is taking in a DC United soccer game with supporters later that evening.

On Monday, Indiana Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly sailed supporters down the Potomac River on a lunchtime cruise sponsored by a boating industry PAC, according to an invitation obtained by the Sunlight Foundation.

While Republicans and Democrats blame one another for the dysfunction that has gripped the Capitol – the 113th Congress is already on track to be one of the least productive sessions ever – they share a bipartisan knack for finding sufficient time for fundraising.

Even as the clock winds down on the legislation session, members of Congress are spending time collecting checks at Washington’s fine-dining establishments.

Several lawmakers are holding more than one event over the course of the week, while others are cramming in multiple fundraisers a day.

Take, for example, Rep. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, who began her day at a fundraising breakfast at Johnny’s Half Shell, a Louisiana-inspired restaurant just off Capitol Hill, and ended her day over Italian food at Carmine’s.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, hosted a Noon lunch on Tuesday at Bearnaise, a French bistro on Capitol Hill, and six hours later she was in a private booth at Fiola, an Italian restaurant that sits between the Capitol and the White House.

She didn’t, however, have the restaurant to herself.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, held a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraising dinner of his own at Fiola on Tuesday night.

Hoyer offered a greeting to Blackburn’s table as he made his way to one of Fiola’s two private dining rooms. (The other was occupied by a party that included Rep. Mike Rogers, a Republican from Michigan.)

“We don’t discriminate. For us, it’s really about hospitality,” said Jessica Botta, the director of culinary development at Fiola, which regularly hosts Washington lawmakers but also out-of-towners like former Florida governor Jeb Bush. “We’re just providing a great service to Democrats and Republicans.”

The end of the legislative week is not the end of the fundraising calendar: one restaurateur expects roughly a third of his election-year business to come from fundraisers.


 


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