Washington (CNN) - On the night before they get sworn in, a dozen incoming freshman House members celebrated their election with a fundraiser at the swanky W Hotel in Washington, drawing criticism from a watchdog organization.
"They haven't yet begun their official duties, but they already have their hands out for money," said Nancy Watzman of the Sunlight Foundation, which posted online a copy of an invitation. The invite, which she said was obtained from a lobbyist who had received it, lists country singer LeAnn Rimes as the featured entertainer.
But an aide for one of the listed sponsors, Congressman-elect Tom Reed, R-N.Y., rejected the criticism.
"Fundraising is an unfortunate evil, with respect to representation – holding office," said his spokesman, Tim Kolpien. "But I know the Congressman is one hundred percent committed to transparency in fundraising, like we were on the campaign trail."
Columnist Matt Lewis of PoliticsDaily.com, who wrote in December about the upcoming event, described the gathering as "tone-deaf," coming on the heels of a campaign in which fiscal restraint and lower spending were key Tea Party themes.
"If I'm advising candidates," he said, "it's probably not a good idea the night before you take office, you take the House of Representatives, to hold a $2500-a-ticket-event."
Freshman California Rep. Jeff Denham dismissed criticism that the event was tone-deaf at a press event, stating "Have you heard LeAnn Rimes?"
"I think the event itself is a great event for our freshman class. Again we, you know campaigns are expensive. We're gonna raise money," he continued.
When asked what his first legislative priority is, Denham struck a different note. He responded, "I think the first legislative priority for everybody is to cut spending."
Tom Davis, a former top House Republican, agreed, asserting that holding a fundraiser is not necessarily at odds with a commitment to fiscal conservatism in government.
"There's nothing that's not fiscally disciplined about this," he said. "You have to raise money and balance budgets to run a campaign at this point. You're getting ready for the next time."
Davis said in years past, politicians from both parties have held fundraisers to celebrate taking office Washington. "Why not - when people are coming to town to watch the swearing-in - give them an event that they can go to," he said.
In 2007, incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, also came under scrutiny for holding elaborate receptions, including one at the National Building Museum featuring performers Tony Bennett and Wyclef Jean.
CNN has previously reported from Republican sources that GOP leader John Boehner and members of his leadership team have made clear to colleagues and staff that they want to avoid the sort of spectacle that the Democrats were criticized for when they took control of the House.
There is absolutely nothing new in this income "class" of Republican congressmen. They are greedy and self-serving cheats. Our country needs to fix our government and we need to do it now.
If the GOP spent HALF as much time trying to fix the economy, healthcare reform, or JOBS, as they do having fundraisers, we would have been out of this mess long ago... but seeing as how they are the ones who got us into it and have no plans to get us out.... I'm not surprised all they can do is have fundraisers for the next round of negative lying ads come election time.