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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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Congressional Getaways venues of interest • POSTED - 11.08.11 BY La Toya Gratten

Where will politicians fundraise during an NBA Lockout?

Since the cancellation of the first two weeks of the NBA season—then another two weeks—many have expressed their anger and disappointment at the league. If a deal is not reached by tomorrow, the deadline imposed by the NBA for the players’ union to accept its offer, much of the season may be lost.

There is one group of fans who may have cause for frustration beyond not seeing their favorite teams play. That would be members of Congress, who use NBA games as a opportunity to fundraise for their campaigns.

David Stern announcing NBA All-Star game in Los Angeles
NBA Commissioner David Stern

Going back to 2008, there have been at least 45 fundraisers at NBA games, all but four of which were held at the Verizon Center, home to the Washington Wizards, according to an analysis of Party Time records. Right now, perhaps because of the lockout, there are no upcoming NBA fundraisers on the schedule. Rep. Albio Sires, D-N.J., hosted the most recent one: a Boston Celtics versus Wizards game in April. (Since Party Time invitations come from lobbyist sources, as opposed to official reports, there could be events scheduled that are not in the database.)

Members of Congress sometimes hold these swanky events back in their home states. Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., held one at the Prudential Center, home to the New Jersey Nets, in April. Just in case donors weren’t sure, the invitation clarified that “Food & Beverages will be served in Luxury Box.” Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Ariz., included a Phoenix Suns game in his “All Sports Weekend” fundraiser back in March.

Fundraising at NBA games, as with other sporting events, is a very good way for lawmakers to bring in thousands of dollars per supporter. The ticket prices on invitations ranged from $500 for an individual ticket to $5,000 for a PAC to be named a ‘host.’ In federal reports, there is no way to track how much a particular politician rakes in at a specific game–contributions reported later to the Federal Election Commission do not indicate where the money was raised.

What can politicians do if a deal is not reached? There’s always college hoops. Plenty of fundraisers—at least 26—have been centered around the NCAA Tournament, known as March Madness, in March and early April, according to an analysis of Party Time files. These events include both watch parties held at bars and luxury suites at the games. Eleven such events were held earlier this year alone, when part of the tournament was played at the Verizon Center. Another nine congressional fundraisers have been scheduled at Georgetown Hoyas games, also played at the Verizon Center, over the years. Former Rep. Dan Maffei, D-N.Y., whose old upstate New York district encompasses fierce Georgetown rival Syracuse University, scheduled fundraisers in 2009 and 2010 when the Orange came to the District.

Hockey is also an option. So far this season, three congressmen (Sander Levin, D-Mich., Sires, and Mike Quigley, D-Ill.) have booked fundraisers to watch the Washington Capitals play. The invitation to Quigley’s event, scheduled for Nov. 29, features a photo of the congressman hoisting the Stanley Cup when his favorite team, the Chicago Blackhawks, won in 2010. This will be the fourth consecutive season that the congressman is hosting a hockey moneymaker at the Verizon Center.

It is also still NFL season and lawmakers have planned at least three fundraisers at football games this year. Rep. John Larson, D-Conn. will be having a leadership PAC fundraiser at FedEx Field on Dec. 11 when the Washington Redskins take on the New England Patriots. On August 25, Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., hosted one at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore for a preseason matchup between the Ravens and Redskins. On Oct. 9, Tom Rooney, D-Fla. had a fundraiser at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh featuring the Steelers and Tennessee Titans. Politicians have even held tailgating fundraisers.

In the spring and summer, baseball has also been a popular option for legislators’ fundraisers. Two such events stand out. In 2009, the Leadership PAC for Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa,. hosted an exclusive event at the Philadelphia Phillies’ spring training complex, including a brunch with players and broadcasters and a private tour with the team owner (tickets could be had for $2,500 or $5,000). In 2008, James McGovern, D-Mass., offered a tour of Fenway Park to go along with a Boston Red Sox game. Tickets went for $5,000 and $2500 for PACs and $2,300 for individuals.

Finally, there’s always tennis, at least for one lawmaker. Congressman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, has used the US Open in Queens, N.Y. to hold events each of the past two summers, attempting to raise $2,500-per-head for his leadership PAC.

If the NBA season ends up being canceled altogether, members of Congress will be sure to find other sporting events—or other attractive forms of entertainment—to raise money.

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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.