House freshmen kick off terms with star-studded fundraiser
January 4th, 2011
05:52 PM ET
9 years ago

House freshmen kick off terms with star-studded fundraiser

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, 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.

Filed under: Republicans
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. WiredinSF

    The poor Republicans don't have corrupt unions to steal elections for them as well as steal them.

    January 4, 2011 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  2. DanteX

    Exactly what would one EXPECT from ANY politician – And ESPECIALLY from Conservatives and the modern-day Republican Party ?

    January 4, 2011 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  3. Proud member of "Global Zero"

    This is what happens when people get lazy and stay home during elections.

    January 4, 2011 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  4. Indiana Voter

    More whining from the liberal left over the loss of the house. Pathetic. Liberals just can't be happy about anything, even after they forced so many damaging policies and laws on this country.

    January 4, 2011 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  5. Rickster

    Good news...people are finally waking up:

    "Rasmussen finds that more Americans now consider themselves to be members of the party of Lincoln and Reagan than of FDR and Obama. The poll finds that 37 percent of Americans now call themselves Republicans, compared with 34 percent who call themselves Democrats."

    January 4, 2011 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  6. Jim in San Mateo

    And when it comes time to vote, the people these representatives will be representing are the ones who can afford a $2,500 a plate dinner. The rest of us will be ignored. You get what you voted for people.

    January 4, 2011 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  7. kayla

    it's all about power and money, and no time to govern. fool me once shame on you. twice shame on me. well america, you've been fooled more than trice.

    January 4, 2011 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  8. w l jones

    Look like we going to get a jump start on our on healthcare by beginning a fundraising before taken office.

    January 4, 2011 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  9. Death Panel Sarah

    "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.".....Just what does he NEED funds for.....don't they get PAID?????

    January 4, 2011 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  10. Death Panel Sarah

    Are they getting funds for their re-election already???

    January 4, 2011 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  11. shamgar50

    Do as I say. Not as I do.

    January 4, 2011 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  12. Name king

    The repugs are sook hypercritical it's dangerous. They all have the same mind frame, and that is to rape the American public of it's existence. They are in the business of distroying the middle class, telling lies and scare tactics to mold the people's mind into mindless unrational folks whom will go against their own interest.

    January 4, 2011 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  13. John

    Ahhhh... the Tea Party in action, that didnt take long did it?

    January 4, 2011 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  14. Julie C

    Of course, typical GOP...say one thing but do another. Can we learn from this?

    January 4, 2011 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  15. GonzoinHouston

    Wow, wotta surprise. Wonder how many TP's are in on this scam? It wouldn't be quite as disgusting if they hadn't campaigned on fiscal responsibility and bringing honesty to government. It's a little like one of the old family-values Christian conservatives having a stripper jump out of the cake.

    Sad truth is that the pressure on congressmen to raise funds is huge and unending, no matter the party or seniority. Money has become such a determinant factor in elections that our representatives have to spend nearly half their time raising money for the next election. Yet these same people are opposed to any kind of campaign spending limits. I guess the current system is easier for them than their opponents.

    January 4, 2011 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  16. Katie

    Riiiight...the republican party is different now – they're the tea baggers – they learned their lesson. I guess enough rubes bought it though, they took control of the house.

    This isn't nearly as bad as Issa inviting the foxes to guard the henhouse with his letter soliciting suggestions on what regulations they want him to go after.

    Or the gop clown stating that the government is there to serve the banking industry.

    Thanks midterm voters – I hope you feel much better after your electoral tantrum.

    Welcome to the republican partys corporatization of America.

    January 4, 2011 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  17. Billy from Philly

    While my wife and I would love to have spend $5k to attend, I would just like to point out that my wife and child and I, like most every hard working American families, usually spends $5000 for food ... every year. Its good to see that the new Republicans are 365 times more Patriotic than I am. I'm glad that in one night, they can show more American Spirit than I can afford in a year. Thank God the Republicans and the Tea Party are looking out for the average American.

    January 4, 2011 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  18. Hangar 13

    Let me guess. This is when we hear from a bunch of indignant liberals (ever notice how liberals are ALWAYS indignant about something?) who sincerely believe that Democrats don't ever go to fundraisers. Ah, but being a liberal requires ignoring reality, doesn't it?

    January 4, 2011 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  19. lynn

    They ran on fiscal responsibility and jobs. So the first thing they do is throw a party for themselves. The voters have been made fools of once again, thinking by voting Republican they will bring balance to the government. Instead all they've done is give away everthing the Democrats have worked for during the last 2 years to benefit the middle-class. Party-On Republican's and show the voter's what you're really all about.

    January 4, 2011 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  20. Shannon

    The new members of the GOP have to find out who is going to fund their next campaigns, so they know how to vote.

    January 4, 2011 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  21. rcasteel

    REALLY! And Obama was on the job HOW long before his hand was out? yet no one complained about that.

    January 4, 2011 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  22. Spanky McLobbyist

    Of course, it's not so much about the "necessary evils" of fundraising, as it is about getting paid by lobbyists to do the bidding of the special interests they represent. The politicians get to take home whatever they don't spend when they retire, it's more of a bribe than a campaign donation...

    You have to hand it to republican voters, no matter how many times republicans fail to deliver the fiscal responsibility, reform and ethics they campaign on, their voters still go out and vote for them... I'm not sure if it's short memory or delusion...

    January 4, 2011 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  23. Bill in Florida

    Does anyone else see the irony in Freshman California Rep. Jeff Denham' words?

    "...You know campaigns are expensive. We're gonna raise money...."
    "...I think the first legislative priority for everybody is to cut spending..."

    January 4, 2011 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  24. greg in jax

    so even before their first day of work, they are already gearing up for the next campaign season. really.. i mean really.. dont you think they should do some work first before selling out to more lobbyist.

    January 4, 2011 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  25. DAVE

    didn't take very long for these new people to start selling themselves for money! change in wasington ! give me a break!

    January 4, 2011 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
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