A new report details how members of Congress routinely use loopholes to flout Federal laws designed to keep them from accepting lavish vacations from lobbyists in return for influence in Washington.
According to the report printed in The New York Times, members of Congress have made trips to California’s Napa Wine Valley, ski resorts in Colorado and other vacation destinations throughout the Nation on the dime of corporate interests hoping to influence legislation.
In 2007, Congress banned lawmakers from accepting virtually anything of value from lobbyists following reports detailing the lavish overseas vacations and gifts that lobbyists often gave American lawmakers.
But The Times notes that “as is the norm in Washington, the lawmakers and lobbyists have figured out a workaround: Political campaigns and so-called leadership PACs controlled by the lawmakers now pay the expenses for the catering and the lawmakers’ lodging” on fancy trips. Lobbyists and corporate or other special interest use their own PACS to make donations between $1,000 and $5,000 to the members’ committees or leadership PACs. As a result, lawmakers get to enjoy their lobbyist-funded vacations and there is no direct exchange of money between the two parties.
Via The Times:
After some time in the hot tub, an evening cocktail reception and a two-and-a-half-hour dinner in a private dining room named Out of Bounds, Representative Adrian Smith, Republican of Nebraska, made one last stop, visiting the lounge at the Four Seasons Resort hotel here to spend more time with the lobbyists and other donors who had jetted in from Washington, D.C., to join him for the weekend getaway.
On the other side of the Rocky Mountains, in Utah, Senator Kelly Ayotte, Republican of New Hampshire, kicked off the new year in the equally upscale resort town of Park City by hitting the ski slopes in the morning with her chief of staff. She then joined a roomful of corporate executives and lobbyists at a mountaintop resort for lunch, her face flush from the mountain sun.
“Anyone who wants to do some runs with me, I would love to,” Ms. Ayotte told her guests, many of them also in ski gear.
This is the world of destination fund-raisers, where business interests blend with pleasure in exclusive vacation venues. Lobbyists go to build relationships with lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans alike, seeking action — and often inaction — in Washington for their clients and companies, with millions of dollars at stake. While approval ratings are at historic lows for members of Congress, their allure to those seeking influence in the nation’s capital is as strong as ever.