Despite a strict new ban on gifts to lawmakers, lobbyists routinely use these prime locations to legally wine and dine members of Congress while helping them to raise money, campaign records show. The lawmakers get a venue that is often free or low-cost, a short jaunt from the Capitol. The lobbyists get precious uninterrupted moments with lawmakers — the sort of money-fueled proximity the new lobbying law was designed to curtail. The public seldom learns what happens there because the law doesn't always require fundraising details to be reported.
Even so, they illustrate that lawmakers still are allowed to accept valuable favors from special interests willing to pay for access, despite promises by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers that the restrictions on gifts and trips would "break the link between lobbyists and legislators."
The role of lobbyists in fundraisers wasn't addressed in the lobbying law signed last September. As long as they don't exceed the federal cap on campaign donations — $10,000 per two-year election cycle for political action committees — lobbyists can underwrite an event for a favored senator or representative at a resort, on a golf trip or at their town house.