Nonstop Fundraising Stretch Starts
Democratic fundraiser Mike Fraioli had attended every one of his party’s political conventions since 1980. Until this year.
It wasn’t because he decided to slip away for an end-of-recess jaunt to the beach. Instead, he stayed in town getting ready for what might be one of the busiest, most grueling stretches to hit the D.C. fundraising scene.
“It is absolutely unbelievable the number of events that are scheduled in the next two weeks,” Fraioli said. “It is just mind-blowing.”
Members on both sides of the aisle and their professional fundraisers have squeezed in events from dawn until the wee hours of the morning. They’re trying to extract every available dollar from the K Street and political action community in the remaining legislative days before Members shift all of their attention to the campaign trail.
House Democrats have slated no fewer than 184 fundraising shindigs between today and the end of the month, according to a directory put out by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Their GOP counterparts, according to a list from the National Republican Congressional Committee, have more than 110 breakfasts, coffees, lunches, dinners and receptions on the calendar. That doesn’t include scores more Senate fundraisers and intimate industry-focused events not logged on the official lists.
Lobbyists say they are feeling the crush.
“The period of time that remains is going to be totally supercharged in terms of fundraising,” said the OB-C Group’s Larry O’Brien, a high-dollar donor to Democrats. “It’s an absolute blizzard. A tsunami. It’s completely and utterly intense.”
Last week alone, Kathryn Lehman, a Republican partner at Holland & Knight, received at least 59 email invitations for September fundraisers. Many more, she said, were already deleted and couldn’t be counted.
“There is a mad dash,” said Lehman, who helps decide which candidates will receive the firm’s PAC contributions. “The expectation is they’re not going to be here in October, so that means you basically have to get it all done in September.”
She added that she and her colleagues are evaluating which Members they’ve already donated to and which ones most need the cash. “A lot of it’s based on client need and where you have relationships,” she said.
GOP fundraiser Monica Notzon, a partner at the Bellwether Consulting Group, understands the pressure lobbyists like Lehman are under in the coming weeks. Not only is Notzon’s firm helping organize fundraisers for incumbents, she also has some Congressional candidates who won late primaries circling through town looking for K Street cash.
“We have too many events to count,” she said. “It’s as busy as I’ve ever seen it on the Republican side. The good news is all of our events seem to be going well. There’s a lot of enthusiasm.”
Notzon said her firm has scheduled events for off-times, such as mid-morning breakfasts and mid-afternoon receptions, to compete with the flurry of other events.
“We’re all trying to be a little creative and do things differently,” she said.
Another obstacle is that some big K Street donors have already hit the legal limit for what they can give to federal candidates and party coffers. Take Ken Kies, for example.
He said he’s received more than 30 emails a day recently inviting him to fundraisers. But don’t expect to find him at any of the hundreds of events around town this week or next.
“My wife and I are maxed out,” said the GOP lobbyist with the Federal Policy Group. “I won’t be going to any of them. I don’t want to go jail.”
O’Brien, in previous election cycles, also has maxed out by this time of year. But he said he held back a few thousand dollars that he can donate to PACs this round.
“I always found some last-minute desperation, so I thought it made some sense to keep a little bit of resources for this point in the cycle,” he said. “And I will be utilizing those funds over this next two-week period.”
Those vying for lobbyists’ last bit of money include DCCC Chairman Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), who is frontlining multiple dinners, including one scheduled tonight at the Eastern Market eatery Acqua Al 2, and a Wednesday breakfast slated for Charlie Palmer restaurant. Both events will set back a PAC $5,000.
On the GOP side, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (Wis.) is hosting a scotch tasting this evening at the Capitol Hill Club, where the price of admission for a PAC is $1,000, according to the NRCC list. A 3 p.m. Wednesday event for Rep. Jeff Landry (La.) billed as coffee, dessert and conversation runs $1,000 for a PAC.
And the lists go on and on.
Fraioli, who skipped the Democratic convention, said he spent much of the August break tracking down lobbyists and PAC directors by phone and email in preparation for the next two weeks. It paid off, he said.
“Did I miss it? You betcha,” he said. “Am I glad I stayed here? You betcha.”