Thursday, July 23, 2009

Roundhouse Roundup: PARTY TIME!

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
July 23, 2009

Some Internet surfers who stumble across the Web site known as "Party Time" might be disappointed to learn that it has to do with social events to raise money for members of Congress.

But that's what you find at, a project of The Sunlight Foundation, a Washington, D.C., organization dedicated to creating more transparency in government.

"It's not all hearings, floor votes and constituent services for members of Congress," the site says. "From the early morning hours until late at night, there are opportunities for members of Congress and congressional candidates to meet with supporters behind closed doors, press them for money, and party. Breakfasts, luncheons, barbecues, golfing outings, receptions, concerts, basketball, baseball, football — the social whirl is endless."

You can search for your congressman or senator and see who's throwing their parties and even view copies of the invitations, which are provided by "reputable anonymous sources."

Naturally, I checked New Mexico's delegation to see what parties they're going to.

Rep. Ben Ray Luján, who represents the northern 3rd Congressional District, has two events listed since he became a congressman in January. One was the well-publicized June 10 fundraiser with a "special guest," House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
Ben Ray Lujan, Dem
The invitation says, "Please note: People for Ben does not take money from Federally Registered Lobbyists." But there's no such limitation for political action committees for interests represented by those lobbyists. The invite listed several contribution levels: $5,000 for a PAC "host," $2,500 for PAC "sponsor," and $1,000 for guests.

Luján's other event on the site was a June 23 breakfast at a restaurant called Tortilla Coast. The contribution levels on the invitation were the same as the Hoyer event.

Party Time doesn't specify how much money was raised at the individual events.

New Mexico's other congressmen, Martin Heinrich and Harry Teague, have more parties than Luján listed on Party Time (four for Heinrich and eight for Teague.)

If you judge by what's available on Party Time, you'd conclude that our House members party a lot more than our senators. Freshman Sen. Tom Udall's most recent event was a breakfast at a place in D.C. called Bistro Bis in September. Senior Sen. Jeff Bingaman's most recent event was in 2006 — when he was running for re-election. This is due to the fact that U.S. senators have six-year terms as opposed to the two-year terms of House members.

"The only active fundraising Jeff has done for himself since 2006 were his annual dinners in (New Mexico) with Bingaman Circle supporters," said Bingaman spokeswoman Jude McCartin in an e-mail this week. "He raises about $100,000 annually there."

"Sen. Bingaman typically has not actively raised funds for himself until two or three years before his election," McCartin said.

Some in Congress may be partying more than what is indicated on Party Time. Udall's spokeswoman Marissa Padilla said in an e-mail that "There were additional fundraisers past the September date noted."

A tragic note: Employees at the Roundhouse were shocked and saddened after a tragedy that happened to the family of a Capitol security guard. At a July 4 celebration in Rio Rancho, Jarrod Truesdale, 26, son of security guard Hal Truesdale, was killed after being struck by lightning. Jarrod Truesdale's wife, Jessica, also was struck and remains in a coma. The couple have four children ranging in age 18 months to 7 years.

Jarrod Truesdale was an Iraq war veteran, who did two tours of duty. He worked as a law enforcement officer with the U.S. Department of Energy.

Several of Hal Truesdale's co-workers will be attending the funeral, which is 10 a.m. Saturday at Calvary Chapel in Rio Rancho.