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Documenting the Political Partying Circuit
From the early hours of the morning until late in the evening, politicians are partying. Sunlight's PARTY TIME can help you find out who is partying, where and when.

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Spending Uncategorized • POSTED - 06.25.09 BY josh

Congress takes its holiday early

After a frantic four days in Washington, during which there were a phenomenal 240 fundraisers that we know of, members of Congress may be a little partied out. Washington’s watering holes, special interest townhouses and swanky restaurants that host fundraisers will be as quiet as members leave Washington for their districts and states. From this Friday, June 26, until Wednesday, July 8, there are a grand total of seven fundraisers scheduled to take place.

Reps. James Clyburn (D-SC) and Jim Matheson (D-UT) will be kicking off the weekend tomorrow morning with breakfast fundraisers where PACs can contribute $5,000 to host and individuals are being asked to chip in $1,000 to $1,500 to attend.

Reps. Edolphus Towns (D-NY) and John Boozman (D-AR) will be ducking out of DC a bit early for a couple of weekend long events. For $5,000 a donor can get tickets to a Yankees game against the Mets in New York with Towns and his Effective Leadership PAC. If that’s a bit too expensive donors can pick up a weekend pass to go trout fishing with Boozman for only $2,000 (PACs) or $1,000 (individuals).

While many of our elected officials will likely be trying to jet out of town the moment they get out of session next week, Rep. Donna Christensen (D-VI) will be hosting a fundraising reception at Patton Boggs House on Tuesday.

Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI) may be starting his Fourth of July recess as early as this Friday. He plans to host an end of the quarter reception on the 29th and a follow up “Fish Boil with Labor & Friends” on the 30th–both in Wisconsin.

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Spending inaugural • POSTED - 01.15.09 BY Nancy Watzman

Getting the party started

If you haven’t noticed already, the capitol city is turning into one big party. The celebration of the inaguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president is well underway. For example, the Hip Hop Caucus is planning a party tonight billed as an “exclusive pre-inauguration celebrity affair,” invitation only, with sponsorship levels reaching as high as $100,000, according to this schedule of events compiled by the political consulting group ConklinScott.

Events like the Hip Hop party are part of the long list of private events that are not required to comply with President-elect Obama’s restrictions and disclosure requirements for inaugural events. Obama certainly has gone further than any previous president-to-be, limiting contributions from individuals to $50,000, refusing donations form corporations, political action committees, and lobbyists, among other restrictions. (Read the fine print here.)  He’s also made information avaialble about his inaugural donors who give more than $200 here.  But these rules apply only to events funded by the inaugural fund, such as the ten official inaugural balls on Jan. 20.

Private events include corporate-sponsored state society balls, such as the Illinois State Society’s ball. That party is drawing contributions from lobbying firms PMA Group and Holland & Knight, as well as major corporations such as United Airlines, Motorola, Google, and Microsoft, reports the Washington Times.

As at the political conventions last summer, often these parties are carefully planned so members of Congress and top staff can attend while complying with ethics laws. Says the Washington Times:

These parties are being structured so that lawmakers can attend without breaking new rules that restrict their socializing with lobbyists. Many of the invitations include a menu of “heavy hors d’oeuvres,” for example, because lawmakers cannot accept full meals from lobbyists under the rules.

The Poker Players Alliance is hosting a private, invitation-only event to honor “our new poker player in chief” starting at 11 p.m. on Inauguration Day at a well-known local cigar bar. The fine print of the invitation, sent to some lawmakers, notes that the event “conforms with the congressional ethics committee rules.”

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Democratic convention Spending • POSTED - 08.25.08 BY Nancy Watzman

Not so popular

Those of you who followed our exploits on twitter.com/SFPartytime will know that as I suspected, I’m not so popular when it comes to convention parties.

Last night Gabriela Schneider, the Sunlight Foundation’s communications director, and I met up with a crew from Inside Edition, which was doing a piece about the Baca golf fundraiser I blogged about yesterday. (The story should air tonight.) Our first stop was the lobbying firm Brownstein, Farber party at the Denver Art Museum. It had all the appearances of an elegant affair. Well coifed and dressed folks chatting outside the entrance in the cool evening, not paying much attention to the riot police who were grouped nearby.

Stephen Farber, lobbyist and lead organizer of the convention for the Denver Host Committee did a photo op outside before entering. Alas my rendition is too blurry to include here. And for anyone who doubted that members of Congress were invited need only look at this sign in front of the building. I went up to the other side and asked if I could go in and was told, quite pleasantly and politely, “no.”

Next stop was the Blue Dog party sponsored by AT&T and Genworth Financial, out in what seemed to be an industrial wasteland by the Pepsi Center. Fitting with the surroundings, the bouncers there were, well, rather thuggish. I was told in no uncertain terms that I was not even allowed to stand near the entrance, since that was private property. When I demurred from moving, a police woman walked over to me, said, “So YOU’RE the self professed party crasher?” and told me I had to stand over on public space. So Gabriela and I complied.

We weren’t the only ones who tried to get into the Blue Dog party and failed. Inside Edition didn’t get in. Neither did folks from Crooks and Liars or Jane Hamsher from Firedoglake or Matt Stoller of Open Left.  Neither did reporters from CQ or the AP, at least not while we were there. There was also a demonstration by Code Pink, although I don’t believe it was their object to go in the party, but rather to flaunt their pink and sing protest songs.

Well, today is a new day. We’re off soon to the Big Tent. More later.

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Spending • POSTED - 07.23.08 BY Nancy Watzman

Will run in exchange for babysitting

Speaking of babysitting, this piece by Ken Silverstein in Harper’s March 2008 edition is a must read for background on how lawmakers use their campaign funds to pay for all sorts of costs associated with partying—including, yes, babysitting:

As for babysitting, the congressman [Rep. Jim McCrery (R-LA)] said that he had asked the FEC for an opinion about that matter, and he had been assured it was appropriate. “We don’t use it often, but we have occasionally,” he told me, adding that he usually paid $100 “if the person comes in and spends the night.” The 2007 tab for $300 was for babysitting when he and his wife were away for a few days at a Republican retreat—at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina.

So let me understand this correctly. If I were a congressional candidate, I could use the campaign money I got from donors—which in McCrery’s case include folks working for the Blackstone Group, General Electric, and New York Life Insturance–and pay for babysitting while I went a played golf on the Chesapeake Bay? Maybe I should reconsider my political career. Except rather than golfing, I’d like to go skiing. Or mountain biking.

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PARTYFINDER™ Hints

Beneficiary: congressional candidate, lawmaker, or entity which collects funds raised at party

Host: person who is hosting party-often, but not always, a registered federal lobbyist

Venue Name: where the party is

Entertainment Type: type of gathering, such as "breakfast," "ski trip," "bowling"

Other Lawmakers Mentioned: lawmakers mentioned on invitation who are used as a draw for the event

Sunlight's Party Time is a project to track parties for members of Congress or congressional candidates that happen all year round in Washington, D.C. and beyond. (read more)

We also post information we receive about parties where members of Congress are expected to participate—such as convention or inaugural parties.

Since we don't hear about all the parties, you can also tell us if you know where the party is and we don't.