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.