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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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ethics • POSTED - 03.15.11 BY Keenan Steiner

Chiefs of Staff a Top Draw to House Democrats Fundraiser

The presence of five chiefs of staff to House Democratic leaders is a main attraction for an “after party” fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee tomorrow night, according to an invitation obtained by Party Time.

Headlining the event are the chiefs of staff to Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., Jim Himes, D-Conn., Richard Neal, D-Mass., John Carney, D-Del., and Steve Israel, D-N.Y., all leaders of the DCCC.

The participation of top aides in fundraisers has raised questions about the boundary between members’ campaigns and official staff, in light of the House Committee on Ethics decision in January to clear Crowley and two other lawmakers of any ethical violation around financial reform legislation. Crowley’s chief of staff, Kate Winkler — who is listed as a host tomorrow — was featured repeatedly in the report, sometimes receiving emails from lobbyists responding to fundraiser invitations.

Neither Winkler nor three of the other chiefs of staff — Jason Cole, Elizabeth Hart and Jack Pratt — were immediately available for comment. Ann Jablon, the top aide to Neal, wrote in an email that she would not attend because she will be busy taking care of her four children.

One lobbyist, who did not want his name published, said he was not bothered that the chiefs of staff are the main draw to the event.

“You don’t see them often on flyers, but they are such a central presence in fundraising phone calls and emails that it does not surprise or even bother me much. In many cases the [chief of staff] is at least as important a connect as the member herself or himself,” he wrote in an email.

He also wrote that the event, which asks donors for a mere $100 and features “The Peach Pit DJ Dance Party” at a Capitol Hill bar, is attempting to “inculcate [young Democrats] into the giving routine with the $100 price tag.”

“With staff instead of Member names on the invitation, it sounds more like a party that a rich kid would throw at home when his parents are in the Bahamas,” he wrote.

The after party follows a high roller “Spring PAC Reception” at Union Station, where, for $15,000, PACs can send four representatives to the event. Headlining the invitation are Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., and four of the top aides’ bosses, except for Israel. The after party RSVP form on the DCCC website asks donors to “please join the DCCC and House Democratic Staff for an after party event at Lounge 201.”

A press spokesman for the DCCC did not respond to a phone message.

In the January Ethics Committee report, the lawmakers were cleared in part because “none of the Members’ legislative staff had any role in planning any aspect for such events, other than the schedulers or chiefs of staff coordinating administrative scheduling issues regarding the Members’ availability.” [See the full report marked with notes here.]

The event comes at a particularly busy time of year for congressional fundraising. Members have planned at least 156 events this week, and no less than 57 today, according to Party Time’s files, which do not grab all of Washington’s invitations.

“I sense a volume of voice mails and emails more typical of last September than I would expect to see in spring of an odd-numbered year,” the lobbyist wrote.

He cited two immediate reasons for the uptick. First, campaigns are pressuring donors to send in checks before the end of the month, which marks the end of the first quarter. In addition, Congress is on recess all of next week, which means this week includes some of the final days for inside-the-beltway events. He expects a high volume of events again on the final three days of the month.

He also cited the “uncertainty-driven nervousness” associated with states’ redrawing congressional districts this year. Many states will lose at least one House seat in the next Congress.

“Everybody wants to get as much in the bank before they potentially get themselves redrawn into a district that will give them political fits, or that may pit one incumbent against another,” he wrote.

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Partytime leadership PACs • POSTED - 06.04.10 BY Keenan Steiner

Richard Neal plans weekend Getaway on the Cape

While Republican congressmen will be spending the weekend on the Central California coast, a more Democratic crowd will be gathering in Cape Cod this weekend.

For a $5,000 contribution, people can join Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., for his “Summer Weekend on Cape Cod.” Guests will stay on the beach at the beautiful Chatham Bars Inn.

The weekend getaway benefits Neal’s political action committee, Madison PAC, which has raised nearly $160,000 this cycle, but only $13,000 has actually gone to other federal candidates so far. Most of the money raised has been directed towards raising money, something that’s not unusual for PACs.  For last year’s annual weekend on the Cape,  Madison PAC paid nearly $20,000 to Chatham Bars Inn.

Neal is a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, and reportedly seeking the chairmanship .

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Partytime • POSTED - 06.16.09 BY Nancy Watzman

Red Sox fundraising at a fever pitch

Over at Politico, Ken Vogel reports on the Red Sox fever that’s sweeping the congressional fundraising circuit next week, taking off from our own Josh Heath’s post here.

Vogel found some events that aren’t in our database, including parties for: Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), and Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA).

And he digs up some interesting stats on how much politicians are paying for all those ball game tickets:

As well as the unique fundraising event works for baseball-loving pols and access-craving lobbyists, who were barred by post-Abramoff reforms from treating lawmakers to games, it works even better for the woebegone Nationals, who have had trouble selling seats at the glistening new stadium that opened last year.

Since the Nationals moved to Washington in 2005, politicians and PACs have paid $259,000 for Nationals tickets, according to Federal Election Commission records.

That’s more than double the $107,000 paid to the next most politically popular team: the New York Yankees. The team that previously held the closest-to-Capitol Hill advantage, the Baltimore Orioles, received $95,000 from federal committees, while the Red Sox pulled in $69,000 at their Fenway Park home in Boston.

Since 2005, federal candidates and committees have spent $718,000 overall for tickets to Major League Baseball games or to rent ballpark facilities, primarily for fundraisers, according to FEC records.

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Partytime • POSTED - 06.12.09 BY josh

Pinot, Cape Cod, and Clapton…oh my!

Legislators are kicking off some fun weekend excursions starting today, and no doubt they’re hoping these festivities will have them rolling in cash by Monday. Whether you’re the sort of donor who enjoys  a relaxing wine tasting in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, or the type who is eager to see if Eric Clapton can top his best live solo to date, it’s a safe bet you will be able to find what you’re looking for.

Rep. Richard Neal (MA-2) is hosting a “Summer Weekend on Cape Cod” for his Madison PAC and asking for contributions of $5,000. The event is taking place at Chatham Bars Inn where guests can look forward to a weekend of golfing, tennis, fishing, and even antique car tours. Sounds like my ideal weekend, but I don’t think I could stretch my stipend that far even if I spent the rest of the summer eating Totino’s.

The wine tasting weekend “Pinot in Portland” is hosted by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (OR-3) and his invitation asks for a contribution of $5,000. It isn’t clear from the invite, but if the plans were up to me, the weekend would start at the Hotel Vintage Plaza in Portland, which offers a Pinot in Portland package– just a short 20 minute drive north of “the heart of wine country.”

Reps. Mazie Hirono (HI-2) and Joe Crowley (NY-7) are also hosting fundraisers with home state themes. Hirono is hosting her Third Annual Taste of Hawaii Reception in DC on the 15th. The Congresswoman is asking $5,000 for PAC hosts, $2,500 for PAC sponsors, $1,000 for PAC guests, $2,400 for individual hosts, $1,000 for individual sponsors, and $500 for individual guests. Crowley’s “I Love NY” weekend starts tonight (June 12, 2009) at 5pm in New York City and he’s asking for contributions of $5,000 from PACs and $2,000 from individuals.

Arguably the highlight of the weekend, Rep. Patrick Kennedy (RI-1) is hosting a fundraiser at Eric Clapton’s Verizon Center performance in Washington DC with Steve Winwood. The invitation requests contributions of $5,000 or $2,500 but it’s unclear as to what these contributions will net the donor. One thing is clear: any Clapton or Winwood fans that are willing to shell out the requested contributions will have one hell of a good time.

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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.