By Ruth Conniff
The counselor advised, "an informal setting," adding that it is "an effective way to build a better relationship."
That sounds like advice that a love counselor might offer to couples, but not so. This relationship is about money. The counselor is a lobbyist for the health care industry, and he was explaining the art of wooing congress critters by paying several thousand bucks to spend a weekend with them at some posh resort in Vail, Key West, or other luxury getaway.
By holding what are called "destination fundraisers" outside of Washington, lawmakers and lobbyists can spend quality time together as they ski, snorkel, and schmooze. "It's a way to get some large chunks of a lawmaker's time," oozed the lobbyist, who had recently enjoyed three days at the Four Seasons Resort in Vail with five Republican House members, two of whom are on the committee that writes our health laws.
But wait, wasn't there a big stink over golf junkets a few years ago, forcing Congress to prohibit lobbyists from paying for those back ally affairs? Yes, but Washington believes that where there's a will, there's a workaround. Here's how this one works: The lawmakers' political committees pay for their travel, food, booze, and lodging -- so these expenses technically are not "gifts" from lobbyists. In turn, the favor seekers come at their own expense, plus making legal donations to the members' reelection campaigns.
The donations end up being three or four times the cost of the event, so the lawmakers pocket a nice wad of cash, while the lobbyists enjoy a weekend of making legislative whoopee. Since the donations and the event are considered "separate" transactions, it's all legal, see?
Neither do I. In fact, what I see is just another corrupt way for corporations to buy Congress. Who do they think they're fooling?
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