The Washington Times - August 27, 2008, 10:34PM

There was just one thing missing from the invitation-only reception for new members of Congress inside a ritzy townhouse in downtown Denver Wednesday.

The freshman lawmakers stayed away in droves. But there was plenty of warning.

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Even before the reception, which was organized by lobbyists and sponsored by credit card and banking executives, campaign finance watchdogs were fuming.

Fred Wertheimer, of the nonpartisan Democracy 21 group, said lawmakers who attended the event should be treated as violating the spirit of new ethics laws.

A handful of reporters were turned away from the reception, which was sponsored by Visa and US Bank.

John Chiang, controller of the state of California, said he was there to learn more about “financial literacy” issues, but didn’t spot any members of Congress inside.

One man said he didn’t see any lawmakers, either, saying only there appeared to be some sort of “glitch.”

Jim McElhatton, investigative reporter, The Washington Times