By: Kate Ackley
July 27, 2023
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Lawmakers and lobbyists are set to leave town for August recess on the far-flung destination fundraising circuit — a sleep-away camp for lawmakers and their K Street benefactors.
They’ll hobnob on the golf course in Jackson Hole, luxuriate in posh resorts like the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, and hit the beaches from Nantucket to San Diego. They’re shipping out to Disneyland, baseball at Wrigley Field, and retreats in Sun Valley, Idaho, according to fundraising invites and interviews with lobbyists and lawmakers.
“A lot of great political dollars are raised in August, which is why they can’t wait to adjourn,” said Michael Toner, a former Federal Election Commission chair who leads the election law and government ethics practice at Wiley.
This off-election-year August makes for a pivotal fundraising period, especially for incumbents looking to build up their war chests before 2024 to scare off potential challengers. It offers something for lobbyist donors, too: quality time with lawmakers.
“These travel events provide a more conducive opportunity to have friendly discussions without the bells going off and votes being called,” said Republican tax lobbyist Ken Kies, who’s hosted and attended events in Nantucket and Jackson Hole.
Federal election rules allow corporations to pay the travel, food, and lodging expenses of sending a representative to a destination fundraising event, said GOP campaign finance lawyer Jan Baran, a partner at Holtzman Vogel.
Fundraising can be a grind, lawmakers and lobbyists said, so the trips — whether near or far — can shake up the usual monotony of D.C. eateries, where money events are often held when Congress is in session.
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) is planning his 13th annual summer retreat fundraiser at the Broadmoor, a five-star historic resort with 20 restaurants and two golf courses in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, according to an invitation to lobbyists. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) is doing a fishing trip in his state benefiting his leadership PAC. Idaho Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch are planning jaunts to the mountain resort town Sun Valley.
Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) is hosting a fundraiser during White Sox vs. Cubs games at Wrigley Field in mid-August, while Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) is planning fundraisers tied to the US Open in her home borough of Queens and at a Beyoncé concert at FedEx field outside D.C.
“Fundraising is the least favorite part of the job for me, but it’s something ongoing and it’s something obviously every member has to do,” she said.
Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) is also planning a US Open event, with billed special guest Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), according to a roundup of upcoming fundraisers shared with lobbyists and PAC directors.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) plans to hang with hundreds of contributors in Wyoming’s affluent Jackson Hole during a major donor retreat in August, and will hit the campaign trail for 20 days and visit nine states from coast to coast, said political aide Drew Florio. A major focus this quarter is on raising money for vulnerable House Republicans.
A pair of California House Democrats, Reps. Raul Ruiz and Lou Correa, plan to continue an August recess fundraising tradition of bringing donors and their families to Disneyland for three days mid-month.
Lobbyist Cristina Antelo, who runs Ferox Strategies, said she’s done the trip with her kids for years, adding it includes a reception and brunch with Disney characters. The lawmakers typically bring their children.
“A lot of the kids have been growing up doing this trip together,” she said.
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Beyond committee chiefs, multiple rank-and-file lawmakers are looking to make their mark on the trillion-dollar farm bill. Up for reauthorization at the end of September, the legislation addresses everything from nutrition aid and farm subsidies to rural internet — touching all corners of the US.
While high-level gridlock looms between the Democratic Senate and Republican House, the traditionally bipartisan bill presents a rare opportunity to pass legislation this year. That means many lawmakers are on a mission to tack on their priorities. Maeve Sheehey highlights those worth watching as Congress inches toward reauthorization.
Lawmakers are ramping up bipartisan efforts to crack down on pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), arguing the industry middlemen of driving up drug costs and putting small and rural pharmacies out of business.
BGOV legislative analysts Dan Lee and Karl Evers-Hillstrom are out with a BGOV OnPoint reviewing PBM legislation that could move later this year, including bills approved yesterday by the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee.