An investigative piece by USA Today shows how lobbyists and politicians skirt laws banning gifts to lawmakers by using homes owned by lobbying firms to throw fundraiser parties. Reporter Ken Dilanian used invitations, interviews, real estate and Federal Election Commission records to document “400 congressional fundraisers at lobbyist-, corporate- or labor-owned Capitol Hill facilities last year through November, benefiting 214 lawmakers—40% of Congress.”

In the past decade, 18 lobbying firms, corporations and labor unions have purchased town houses or leased office space near the Capitol, joining more than a dozen others that had operated there for years, according to real estate records.

Despite a strict new ban on gifts to lawmakers, lobbyists routinely use these prime locations to legally wine and dine members of Congress while helping them to raise money, campaign records show. The lawmakers get a venue that is often free or low-cost, a short jaunt from the Capitol. The lobbyists get precious uninterrupted moments with lawmakers—the sort of money-fueled proximity the new lobbying law was designed to curtail. The public seldom learns what happens there because the law doesn’t always require fundraising details to be reported.

Carrie Ching

Carrie Ching is an award-winning, independent multimedia journalist and producer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. For six years, she led digital storytelling projects at the Center for Investigative Reporting as senior multimedia producer. Her multimedia reports have been featured by NPR.org, The Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, Grist, Time.com, Fast Company, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, KQED, PBS NewsHour, Salon.com, Mother Jones, Public Radio International, Poynter, Columbia Journalism Review and many other publications. Her specialty is crafting digital narratives and exploring ways to use video, audio, photography, animation and interactive graphics to push the boundaries of storytelling on the Web, tablets and mobile. Her work has been honored with awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, Best of the West, the Online News Association, Scripps Howard, The Gracies, and was part of the entry in a Pulitzer-finalist project. Prior to her time at CIR she was a magazine and book editor, video journalist, newspaper reporter and TV comedy scriptwriter. She was on the 2010 Eddie Adams Workshop faculty as a multimedia producer working with MediaStorm to teach digital storytelling techniques to photojournalists. She completed a master’s degree in journalism at UC Berkeley in 2005.