Ethics Reform Loophole Results in Hot PAC Action

"In just the last two months, lawmakers invited lobbyists to help pay for ... lavish birthday parties in a lawmaker's honor ($1,000 a lobbyist), martinis and margaritas at Washington restaurants (at least $1,000), a California wine-tasting tour (all donors welcome), hunting and fishing trips (typically $5,000), weekend golf tournaments ($2,500 and up), a Presidents' Day weekend at Disney World ($5,000), parties in South Beach in Miami ($5,000), concerts by the Who or Bob Seger ($2,500 for two seats), and even Broadway shows like 'Mary Poppins' and 'The Drowsy Chaperone' (also $2,500 for two)." But don't worry -- it's all happening under the U.S. Congress' new ethics rules. "Instead of picking up the lawmaker's tab" directly, explains the New York Times, "lobbyists pay a political fund-raising committee set up by the lawmaker." Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who voted for ethics reform, said, "If you are not going to have publicly financed elections ... I don't see any problem with having events where private individuals who give you money can talk to you." Such fundraising via lawmakers' personal political action committees (PACs) "might even increase the volume of contributions flowing to Congress from K Street, where many lobbying firms have their offices."