The government shutdown has placed thousands of federal workers on unpaid leave, but money is flowing to one group: Congress.
That’s right, despite causing the shutdown in the first place, members of the House and Senate are still drawing their paychecks — and some are even going ahead with scheduled fundraisers, building up their political war chests in hopes of holding on to their jobs after midterm elections next year.
“It looks terrible to be taking care of your campaign while you’ve got the government shut down,” said Bill Allison, editorial director for the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit that tracks government transparency. “The idea that you’d be having a swank fundraiser, rubbing elbows with lobbyists and raising campaign money can really just be a terrible thing for Congress.”
But that hasn’t stopped several lawmakers from holding events, according to a Sunlight Foundation survey.
Rep. Gene Green, Texas Democrat, held a fundraising luncheon at Tortilla Coast in Washington on Tuesday, just hours after the government officially closed its doors for lack of funding. The smallest contribution level was $1,000.
If you had only $500 in your pocket, you could have gone to support Rep. Charlie B. Rangel, New York Democrat, on Wednesday night at an event hosted by several other House members.
If you are looking for an outdoor activity, you can attend the second annual Trout Fishing Weekend benefit for Sen. John Boozman, an Arkansas Republican who is not up for re-election until 2016. The event, at Gaston’s White River Resort in Arkansas, costs $2,500 and, as of midweek, is still a go unless the impasse on Capitol Hill drags on.
“Sen. Boozman is committed to being here in Washington until this is resolved, so he won’t be home for [the fundraiser] if the government is still shut down,” said Boozman spokesman Patrick Creamer.
Other lawmakers have been more concerned about the optics of raising money while the rest of the government goes without pay, and several have canceled events.
Rep. Steve Chabot, Ohio Republican, was planning a “Taste of Cincinnati” fundraiser for Tuesday but canceled the event as it looked likely that the government was headed for a shutdown. The Ohio food prepared for the event was donated to a D.C. homeless shelter, a spokesman for Mr. Chabot said.
Rep. Lois Capps put on hold an “Autumn Reception” scheduled for Tuesday, and fellow California Republican Rep. Mike Thompson canceled a $2,500 evening of “stimulating conversation and some of California’s finest wines” planned for Monday.
“Working on solving the shutdown takes priority,” Thompson communications director Austin Vevurka told The Washington Times.
Rep. David Roe, Tennessee Republican, stopped a Thursday breakfast fundraiser with Rep. Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican. The event was $250 minimum at the Capitol Hill Club, a private Republican social club.
Public anger over the shutdown likely is causing the cancellation of events, Mr. Allison said.
“It is the exposure that’s making them cancel it; it’s not because they think there’s something wrong with fundraising,” he said. “It’s sort of like asking to be rewarded for not doing your job.”