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A Vineyard Weekend for Donors

Call it summer camp for K Street. A throng of Washington, D.C.’s top Democratic lobbyists are spending the weekend on the chic-bucolic Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard.

They are there for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s annual donor-palooza, a thank you of sorts to lobbyists and other top donors around the country who have given $30,000 to the committee’s coffers. In return, the top donors get to mix and mingle with the 30 or more Senators and Senatorial candidates who were expected at the event.

Among the lobbyists who are helping the Democrats take over the island are Julie Domenick, president of Multiple Strategies; the OB-C Group’s Larry O’Brien; and Jeffrey Peck of Peck, Madigan, Jones & Stewart. Democratic lobbyist power couple Heather and Tony Podesta are also there (she runs Heather Podesta + Partners, while he is the founder of the Podesta Group).

Elmendorf Strategies’ Steve Elmendorf and the firm’s newest addition, Jimmy Ryan, are both in attendance. Top Democratic donor Jack Quinn of Quinn Gillespie & Associates also made the trip.

“It’s a record turnout,— one K Streeter said by cell phone from the island on Friday afternoon, just as people were beginning to check in for the weekend. “It’s probably two to three times the size of the crowd of a couple years ago in terms of donors. Winning definitely breeds popularity.—

The lobbyist added that a large number of business interests were represented at the retreat.

“The business community knows if you want to get your agenda considered, you’ve got to go to the moderate Democrats in the Senate,— the lobbyist said.

According to lobbying sources, Democratic Senators at the event included Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Tom Carper (Del.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), John Kerry (Mass.) and Bob Casey (Pa.).

On Friday, lobbyists were speculating about whether Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) would make the trip. His name along with his wife, Jackie Clegg Dodd, was listed as an expected attendee, but his office did not return an e-mail inquiry about Dodd’s plans. Dodd’s presence would be notable because as chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, he has been distancing himself from lobbyists as he heads into a tougher-than-expected re-election campaign next year.

One of Dodd’s latest fundraising solicitations poked fun at K Street. “The lobbyists can’t get meetings with Chris,— the solicitation — which also included a video — stated. “He won’t return their phone calls. He even yells at them during hearings. Whether they’re lobbyists for the financial industry or health care companies, Chris just isn’t giving them the time of day.—

The sarcastic solicitation continued, quoting a Roll Call article that had quoted several lobbyists. “Those poor lobbyists! No one’s meeting with Dodd,’ they complain. He certainly isn’t doing things to cater to the K Street crowd.’ Isn’t that a shame?—

While some of the K Streeters on the Vineyard said they did not expect to see Dodd, one said that because most of the top donors are not, in fact, lobbyists, Dodd might show up. “I bet he would come,— this lobbyist said.

And for all the anti-lobbyist rhetoric, Dodd has still been taking lobbyists campaign donations — including money from Domenick, Quinn and Elmendorf, among other Vineyard attendees — as well as money from political committees including the Mortgage Bankers Association of America PAC, the National Association of Realtors PAC and Prudential Financial’s PAC, according to second-quarter campaign financial disclosure reports.