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“It doesn’t mean that’s going to have an impact, but the public needs to be able to evaluate their voting records and be able to come to their own conclusion.”

Members of Congress have faced scrutiny for donations to charities they control from industries they oversee as lawmakers, Ms. Boyle said.

In 2009, The Washington Times reported that the pharmaceutical industry had directed large sums of money to a charity founded by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, with checks as large as $40,000, far exceeding what they could give to his campaigns.

Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, faced numerous ethics problems last year, including charges that he used official House stationery to raise money for an organization in his own name: Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service.

“Its something that’s certainly not unheard of,” Ms. Boyle said. “Its a way for lobbyists or contractors to gain a leg up and to buy access and influence.”

Donors to Team Thomas ranged from businesses large and small across Washington, including many companies with issues before D.C. lawmakers. The Mannat Phelps law firm, which lobbies D.C. lawmakers, gave $1,000, as did one of its clients, the Rhode Island Avenue Metro LLC. The Carmen Group Inc. and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP each gave $1,000.

Meredith McGehee, policy director of the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, said a lawmakers charity provides a way for contributors to keep giving even when theyve hit the maximum donation under campaign finance limits.

“Many times when people have maxed out in campaign contributions theyre looking for another way to buy access, and making charitable contributions is a great way to do that,” she said. “The donors are giving because they have obviously received the message, whether a wink and a nod or something more, that this is what will please a particular politician.

“Even if nothing illegal occurs, the public has to have the information to be able to make their own judgments.”