A Note From Our (Lobbyist) Sponsors
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- After a brief welcome speech that reporters were allowed to watch, President Bush fielded questions behind closed doors from House Republicans. You'll get an update a bit later on Bush's speech and members' reaction to it. But first, a note on this retreat's sponsor.
As Bush stood in the banquet room addressing the assembled lawmakers, projected onto a giant screen next to him were the words "Congressional Institute." That was a plug for the longtime organizer of these GOP retreats, a non-profit group "dedicated to helping Members of Congress better serve the nation and to helping the public better understand public policy debates and the operations of the national legislature."
The group is run by a high-powered board of Republican lobbyists, all of whom presumably value the entrÃ©e into Congressional affairs the institute provides. The organization puts up at least some of the money to hold the retreat each year -- how much exactly is not publicly available -- while members pay most of their individual costs either out of their campaign accounts or their own pockets.
Until a couple of years ago, the institute's board of lobbyists would always come to these retreats, often hosting happy hours for the members and getting invaluable access in a relaxed, private setting. But the Jack Abramoff scandal ended that practice, and now lobbyists don't actually attend the retreats anymore, though they still foot some of the bill.
This year, Republicans are in the midst of a big internal discussion about how to further curb earmarks, thereby lessening the influence of special interests on the legislative process. That debate is occurring at an event at least partially funded by lobbyists. Capitol Briefing leaves it to his wise readers to decide whether that constitutes irony.
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