Last December, a $500 donation could buy a ticket to a fundraiser that, the invitation said, would feature "Bojangles' Fried Chicken, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, And Mel Watt, of course!" Two days later, Watt, a Democratic congressman from North Carolina, withdrew a provision from the House's financial reform bill that would have regulated loans from car dealers.
This event and several others have come under scrutiny by the Office of Congressional Ethics, The New York Times reported today. The ethics office sent donors and party hosts a formal request for documents relating to a number of fundraisers for members of Congress in the run-up to the House vote on financial reform last December.
The Times singled out certain events that raised red flags, and the Sunlight Foundation's Party Time site, which collects fundraising invites, has the details for Watt's event and several others in its database.
There's New York Democrat Joseph Crowley's "Holiday Cocktail Reception," which he ducked into while debates were continuing on the Hill. "After collecting thousands of dollars in checks, Mr. Crowley returned to the floor of the House just in time to vote against a series of amendments that would have imposed tougher restrictions on Wall Street," the Times reported.
Three days before the vote, Frank Lucas, R-Okla., held a "'Last Call' Breakfast," and John Campbell, R-Calif., hosted a "California Wine Tasting." Two days before the vote, there was a "Financial Services Luncheon" for Georgia Republican Tom Price. The same day, North Dakota Democrat Earl Pomeroy had a "Fundraising Breakfast" at the offices of Davis & Harman, which billed over $2 million in lobbying fees last year to companies and organizations that could be affected by financial reform, according to lobbyist disclosures.
Watt and other congressmen defended their fundraising, saying contributions did not sway their votes.