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March Madne$$ on Capitol Hill

Nothing says March Madness quite like college basketball, crowded bars and jam-packed arenas, lots of televisions ... and political fundraisers.

Yes, it's the ides of March, and the annual NCAA college basketball national championship tournament begins today. And, for members of Congress, the March 31 deadline is fast approaching for their first quarterly fund-raising reports to be filed with the Federal Election Commission, which always provides an early barometer of the political health of incumbents.

Some members have decided there's no better way to celebrate college hoops and politics than combining the two.

Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) is hosting a fund-raiser today from 3 p.m. to 5 pm. at the not-so-swank 18th Amendment, a bar six blocks from the Capitol.

Individuals, er, lobbyists, make your checks payable to Lee Terry for Congress; $500 for individuals, $1,000 if you're representing a corporate political action committee.

That's more money than it usually costs to watch Georgetown University play, which presumably will be the game of choice for viewers at the bar, although the multiple flat-screen TVs will allow donors to keep an eye on other games.

Terry won with 55 percent of the vote in 2006, a sizeable victory but one that leaves him right on the cusp of where Democrats are sizing him up for for possibile vulnerabilities when he is up again next year.

Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.) is bringing his donors to New Orleans for a double-header tomorrow night in the New Orleans Arena, which is playing host to its first NCAA tournament games since Hurricane Katrina. Always a target of Democrats - he won by just 329 votes in 2006 - Hayes is also charging $500 for donors who would like to sit in Suite 253 with him as they watch the twin bill of Arizona vs. Purdue and Florida vs. Jackson State.

If you're representing a PAC, it'll cost $2,500 to watch the defending national champion Florida Gators kick off their run to retain the title.

The theme has gotten so commonplace that some members are hyping their events even if no basketball games will be watched.

According to the National Republican Congressional Committee's web site - http://www.nrcc.org/events -- Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) is inviting donors to celebrate "March Madness" on March 22, which would be the first night of the so-called Sweet 16, when the final 16 teams play. One problem: Buyer's event is a luncheon at the Capitol Club, the restaurant attached to the Republican National Committee and NRCC building.

And on March 28, Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) is hosting a "March Craziness" event at Lounge 201, a swank bar on the Senate side of Capitol Hill known for its high-priced martinis. That one will cost $500 per person and $1,000 per PAC.

It may be a crazy night, but there will be no "madness". No NCAA games are slated for that Wednesday evening.

By Paul Kane  |  March 15, 2007; 11:45 AM ET
 
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