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Forget the Lawmaker, Meet the Chief of Staff

Uncle Chuck Wants You!

That's the message jumping out of the latest fundraising letter sent out from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, chaired by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). [Click the image to the right to see the full text.]

Don't let Uncle Chuck down!

This invite first appeared (in print only) in Jeffrey Birnbaum's K Street column in Tuesday's Washington Post, but Capitol Briefing can add a few notable details. Read the fine print and you'll see that senators aren't the draw at this event, slated for July 10 at the DSCC's Mott House across the street from the Capitol.

Officially, lobbyists are asked to give or raise $2,000 to be a "host" or $1,000 to be a "DSCC friend" in order to meet "individuals representing" Senate Democrats. That's code word for chiefs of staff and staff directors of committees, according to lobbyists who received the fundraising pitch. The image of the invite that was e-mailed to Capitol Briefing included the file name of "chiefs invitation".

It's part of what some lobbyists say is an emerging technique in fundraising by the campaign committees -- gathering a group of top advisers to lawmakers rather than the principals themselves. Lobbyists say they've heard that later this year House Democratic chiefs of staff will be the draw at a fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The DSCC declined to comment on the event, as did the DCCC.

There is nothing wrong legally with top staffers, who are paid with taxpayer funds, serving as the fundraising draw for campaign committees. In Senate offices, three staffers are usually designated as having a dual role for being allowed to also handle fundraising activities. (In Schumer's case, for example, Mike Lynch, his chief of staff, is officially designated as an aide who's allowed to also help with raising contributions.)

And in some cases, lobbyists privately say that they prefer such events, as they get entrée to the top aides for numerous lawmakers. Most fundraising events involve large crowds of people and one, at most two senators, leaving little real face time for donors with the principal as it turns into an assembly line of hand shakes and one-minute small talk.

But donors beware. Anyone who shows up July 10 may have to enlist in Uncle Chuck's political boot camp.

By Paul Kane  |  June 15, 2007; 3:02 PM ET
Categories:  Fundraising Circuit , Senate  
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