- The Washington Times - Monday, March 21, 2011

Betty Sutton is a Democratic member of Congress from Ohio and member of the House Armed Services Committee who is proud of her legislative work to rein in the influence of lobbyists in Washington.

John Weinfurter is a prominent Washington lobbyist who lives on Capitol Hill, with a roster of corporate clients that include the big military contractor SAIC Inc.

You might not think these two would get along, but apparently they do, because Mrs. Sutton recently attended a fundraising party in her honor at Mr. Weinfurter’s Capitol Hill home.

Neither Mrs. Sutton’s office nor Mr. Weinfurter returned telephone and e-mail messages concerning the March 14 evening fundraiser.

Mrs. Sutton has made a name for herself pushing for lobbying reforms since she came to Congress four years ago. Her congressional Web page says she has taken action to “break the ties between politicians in Washington and those who seek to buy their influence.”

According to the fundraising invitation, contributors at the event for Mrs. Sutton hosted by Mr. Weinfurter were asked to give up to $5,000 for a political action committee or $2,500 for an individual, with checks made out to Betty Sutton for Congress.

The invitation was obtained by the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation, which monitors fundraising by members of Congress and posts about events online to shed additional light on how money flows to congressional candidates. Lawmakers aren’t required to disclose information about the fundraisers they hold other than the donations they collect. The Washington Times has confirmed Mrs. Sutton’s attendance at the event.

Mrs. Sutton was appointed to the House Armed Services Committee in January. That committee oversees the Department of Defense, defense policy and military operations. She also serves on the House Natural Resources Committee.

According to Senate lobbying records, Mr. Weinfurter over the past year has lobbied for numerous clients, including SAIC, Northwestern Mutual and Amerigroup.

Mr. Weinfurter recently lobbied the House on behalf of SAIC to monitor oversight hearings and on information-security issues, according to lobbying papers filed by the District-based KSCW Inc., of which he is president. In addition, he and other KSCW officials lobbied for the company on funding and health care matters.

A longtime staffer on Capitol Hill, he was chief of staff to Rep. Joe Moakley, Massachusetts Democrat, who served in Congress until his death in 2001. His company’s website says his recent projects include “securing educational appropriations, assisting small businesses to procure federal agency contracts and aiding defense-technology firms in receiving federal funding for research.”

The event at Mr. Weinfurter’s house for Mrs. Sutton was one of more than 150 fundraisers held across town in recent weeks for members of Congress from both parties.

Politicians have been raising money across Washington in bars, restaurants and private town houses and at sporting events. With the first quarter for reporting election contributions approaching, the flurry of last-minute fundraising will help politicians boost their campaign bank accounts before their campaign finances become public.

Throughout her time in Congress, Mrs. Sutton has spoken out against what she has called the undue influence by corporate lobbyists on Washington lawmakers.

“Since Jan. 4, 2007, the first day I was sworn into office, I have worked hard to ensure that people are placed ahead of lobbyists and the public interest is placed before the special interests,” she said after the House Appropriations Committee last year banned earmark requests to for-profit entities.

When the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act passed a key legislative hurdle in 2007, Mrs. Sutton said the legislation would increase accountability by requiring lobbyists to disclose donations to members of Congress and to lawmakers’ pet charities.

“This bill focuses on sanitizing the relationship that lobbyists have with Congress,” Mrs. Sutton said. “Through increased public disclosure, we will shed much light on the money trail from lobbyists to Capitol Hill.”

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