The fabulous life of your US legislator

by Naureen Khan

Lawmakers on the cash hunt treat themselves to the best steakhouses, beach resorts and golf courses

Match your U.S. lawmaker with the corresponding charges on his or her fundraising expense account, and one can get a textured glimpse of exactly what it takes these days to charm donors.

For example, which congressman spent $91,000 in 2013 for a getaway at Dorado Beach Club, a luxury resort in Puerto Rico known for its championship golf courses and plantation-style residences?

That would be Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, who has lamented the widening income gap that separates rich and poor and has been a forceful advocate for a minimum wage hike.

Which lawmaker appears to have an insatiable taste for red meat, having dropped $54,000 at BLT Steakhouse in Washington last year and another $5,000 at Bobby Van’s, a favorite haunt of D.C. lobbyists?

That’s House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. If that wasn’t enough to put his political contributors in a giving mood, his PAC, Every Republican Is Crucial, spent $2,300 on “golf fees” and “golf items” through 2013, in addition to the $26,000 the organization expended on a single fundraiser at the luxury golf resort Creighton Farms in northern Virginia.

Since the GOP’s loss in the 2012 presidential election, Cantor has been at the forefront of the party’s efforts to rehabilitate its image, visiting a number of inner-city schools and touting the conservative approach to combating poverty.

Last one: Which senator spent about $8,000 on private car services, $15,000 on a reception at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan and thousands more on caterers from Pasadena to Nantucket to London?

That would be Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who focuses most of her legislative work on measures to improve the lives of women and families. Shelley Rubin, one of the owners of the Rubin Art Museum, then donated $5,000 right back to Gillibrand’s political action committee, Off the Sidelines, later the same year.

Al Jazeera America combed through the year-end Federal Election Commission filings of some of the most active PACs, looking for the more creative ways lawmakers choose to spend money to make money.

None of the disbursements detailed above were made directly by the lawmaker’s offices or official campaign apparatuses, but rather by their affiliated PACs. Cantor and Hoyer, along with dozens of other lawmakers, run leadership PACs — operations intended to leverage their star power in order to raise money on behalf of their colleagues.

The committees eventually write checks to fund the campaigns of fellow lawmakers, which in turn helps high-ranking members call in favors and wrangle votes when needed. Gillibrand’s political action committee, though not a leadership PAC, was formed with the intent of electing women candidates to office.

These PACs in recent years have earned a reputation for financing lavish trips and extravagant soirees with lobbyists and other high-dollar political contributors.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s leadership PAC, Majority Committee, for instance, spent nearly $100,000 on charter flights in 2013. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Searchlight Leadership Fund cut a check for more than $3,000 to an Apple store for “office equipment and donor gifts,” and $7,000 for catering from the ritzy Charlie Palmer Steak. Speaker John Boehner’s leadership PAC, Freedom Project, paid Virginia-based Epiphany Productions, an event management company, $62,000 for “fundraising consulting”; another $6,000 was spent on booze from Congressional Liquors during 2013…

More…

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/2/27/the-fabulous-lifeofyouruslegislator.html

 

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