Via Infoshop News
by Sebastian Jones and Marcus Stern
ProPublica, Oct. 25, 2010
As Congress entered the final weeks of its struggle to overhaul regulation of Wall Street in May, several hundred friends and colleagues slipped out of Washington for a private weekend on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Most were lobbyists for large banks, pharmaceutical firms, insurance companies, and big-ticket trade groups. However, 28 were members of Congress, and 29 were legislative staffers, all part of a coalition of House Democrats with a business-friendly agenda.
The retreat was held in honor of the New Democrat Coalition, a group of 69 lawmakers whose close relationship with several hundred Washington lobbyists has made their organization one of the most successful political money machines since the Republican K Street Project collapsed in 2007. In the past year and a half, New Democrats have pulled in more than $18 million in campaign contributions from their lobbyist fundraising network. The lobbyists, in turn, have mingled with lawmakers and their staffers at least 850 times during fundraising events and informal get-togethers.
When the Democrats took control of Congress in 2007 they promised to usher in a new era that would end the excesses of what they labeled a Republican “culture of corruption.” One of their prime targets was the K Street Project, in which the Republican congressional leadership placed political operatives in lobbying jobs so they could direct money from big business to GOP campaigns in exchange for access to lawmakers for their clients. The project collapsed after Democrats assumed power and several Republican congressmen, staffers, and lobbyists were convicted on corruption charges.
Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind , one of the New Democrats’ vice-chairs, was among those who campaigned for ethics reform in 2006. “Pay-to-play politics have no place in Congress,” he said at the time.