Who Pays for Congress’s Big-Money Party Retreats?

by - January 17, 2013

It boils down to this catch-22: Either the special interests pay, or you do.

When House Republicans begin mapping out their 2013 political and policy agenda later this week with top aides, strategists, and motivational speakers at a resort in Williamsburg, Va., they’ll spend one evening schmoozing with lobbyists for some of Washington’s biggest and most powerful interest groups.

That’s because the three-day annual getaway is financed in part by a nonprofit that relies on annual contributions of $25,000 from its corporate and trade-association members. An evening of face time with GOP lawmakers and top advisers at the policy retreat is one of the sweeteners for donating.

Three weeks later, House Democrats will huddle at a Leesburg, Va., resort for a three-day policy retreat of their own. But no lobbyists are invited to their gathering. That’s because the Democrats have spurned the use of special-interest money to finance the get-together. Instead, they’re tapping taxpayer funds to pick up part of the tab—but won’t even say how much they’re spending.

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