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K Street Files: Lobbyists Line Up for James Taylor, Carole King

K Street denizens are ready to break out their butane lighters and sing, “I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain.” Perhaps that will make opening their pocketbooks and coughing up some campaign cash a little less painful.

At the very least, lobbyists can expect to get good seats to see James Taylor and Carole King in concert at the Verizon Center in early June. Several lawmakers, including Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Vice Chairman Joe Crowley and fellow Democratic New York Reps. John Hall and Carolyn Maloney, are hosting fundraisers at the concert.

Crowley’s event alone is asking contributors to pony up $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for political action committees.

While the lawmakers will no doubt rock out to Taylor and King, one Democratic fundraiser joked that “Hall is there to remember when. Crowley is still thinking about what might have been,” giving a nod to both Hall and Crowley’s musical prowess. Hall, of course, is most famous as a member of the band Orleans, and Crowley plays a mean guitar.

Hall’s supporters will get a VIP stage seat, cozily arranged in tables for two, as well as special access to King and Taylor’s sound-check session and a private pre-performance reception, according to the fundraising invitation.

Not to be outdone, Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson is hosting a Taylor-King weekend at the Mohegan Sun Resort and Spa in his home state of Connecticut. To participate in the weekend of golfing and music with Taylor and King, attendees are asked to contribute $5,000 per PAC.

What’s Next, K Street Reform?

Lobbyists are reacting skeptically to a bill introduced last week by Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) that would place a lifetime ban on former Members of Congress entering the influence business. The proposal would increase the cooling-off period to six years before Congressional staffers could register to lobby.

But Dave Wenhold, president of the American League of Lobbyists, said the only people it would hurt are those on Capitol Hill — not K Street.

“It would make the value of those that are already lobbying even greater than it is now,” Wenhold said. “I seriously doubt that Members and key staffers will let this bill get any traction.”

Bennet’s bill would ban lobbyists from joining Congressional offices that they have lobbied during the past six years and would increase the statutory punishment for lobbyists in violation of the rules to a maximum fine of $500,000.

The legislation would also cover former Members of Congress and Congressional staff who are not registered to lobby but are members of a lobbying practice.

“The need for reform in Washington is glaring when 1,500 Wall Street lobbyists can drown out the voices of the American people and block a bill that reforms the big Wall Street banks,” Bennet said in a statement. “By preventing Members of Congress from lobbying when they leave Capitol Hill and preventing congressional staff from going back and forth through the revolving door, public officials can get about the business of helping the country.”

Bennet’s call for closing the revolving door for ex-lawmakers comes as Wall Street’s lobbying tactics have been the subject of much criticism while Congress grapples with financial regulatory reform.

Despite all the negative rhetoric about Wall Street lobbyists, Senate Majority Leader-turned-lobbyist Trent Lott (R-Miss.) wasn’t afraid of walking around Capitol Hill on Wednesday, talking with lawmakers. Lott, who formed his own shop, the Breaux Lott Leadership Group, is registered to lobby for companies with financial services interests, including Citigroup.

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