March 30, 1997 in Nation/World

Like Demos, Gop Selling Access Former Senator: ‘It’s Like The Pot Calling The Kettle Black’

Knight-Ridder
 

They can’t offer the Lincoln Bedroom, but for a cool $250,000, Republicans will let you sit alongside congressional bigwigs on the dais of their glitziest fund-raiser of the year.

Or, for $100,000, they’ll invite you to breakfast and snap your photo with House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. And for $45,000, they’ll treat you to lunch with congressional leaders and the “Senate and House committee chairmen of your choice.”

As they prepare to spend millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money investigating Democrats for alleged campaign fund-raising abuses, Republicans are raising cash hand-over-fist. And they are doing it much the way the Clinton administration did - by selling access.

“Republicans need to recognize the fact that this is perilously close to the kind of thing we’re criticizing President Clinton for doing,” said Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., one of a few Republicans who has signed onto a plan to overhaul the way campaigns are financed.

“It’s like the pot calling the kettle black,” said former Republican Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker, who was chosen by President Clinton to spearhead a grassroots movement to change campaign finance.

Particularly bothersome to Shays and other reform advocates is the Republican National Committee’s Annual Gala on May 13, a glimmering event in Washington’s biggest ballroom that aims to raise $11 million in one night. As incentives, the RNC is offering supporters who raise or contribute large sums several opportunities for close encounters with decision-makers and governors.

“This is, in effect, selling access,” Shays said. “It’s what we have been critical of the White House for.”

The gala is the grandest, but not the only event in which Republican decision makers schmooze with campaign contributors. In mid-April, for example, Senate Republicans will spend two days discussing politics and policy with 400 donors to the Presidential Roundtable, headed by Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

For $5,000 a year, the invitation-only members get a number of benefits, according to the organization’s prospectus, including “private receptions, dinners and strategy sessions with Republican Senators and distinguished guests.”

“It is selling access in its most blatant and naked form,” said Anthony Corrado, a Colby College government professor. Given the current controversy, Corrado said, the events show “an alarming lack of sensitivity to the public perceptions of Washington and to voter concerns about political fund raising.”

xxxx SHOPPING LIST Here’s what big contributors get at the Republican National Committee’s May 13 annual gala, as promised in an RNC fund-raising letter. For raising or contributing these amounts, you get:

$250,000 Dais seating at the gala. Breakfast and photo opportunity with Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich on May 13. Luncheon with Republican Senate and House leadership and the Republican Senate and House committee chairmen of your choice. Private reception with Republican governors before the gala.

$100,000 Preferential seating at the gala dinner with the VIP of your choice. Breakfast and photo opportunity with Lott and Gingrich on May 13. Luncheon with congressional leadership and committee chairmen of your choice. Private reception with Republican governors before the gala.

$45,000 Preferential seating at the gala dinner with the VIP of your choice. Luncheon with congressional leadership and committee chairmen of your choice. Private reception with Republican governors before the gala.

$15,000 Preferential seating at the gala dinner with the VIP of your choice. VIP reception at the gala with the congressional leadership. -Knight-Ridder


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