KAI RYSSDAL: There’ll be an all-star cast tomorrow night at a Democratic fundraiser outside Washington. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and chairmen of the ten most powerful committees in the House of Representatives are scheduled to headline the event. And even though the presidential election’s still 18 months away, corporate America is already placing its bets with well-timed donations. Commentator Jeff Birnbaum points out it’s the same story as before…just a different cast of characters.
JEFF BIRNBAUM: The asking price for access to Nancy Pelosi and all her colleagues is $28,500 a couple. That’s one of the steepest prices ever charged since new campaign finance limits were imposed five years ago.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Remember Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean railing against Republicans last year for selling access to their chairmen? The “intimate briefings” they gave to big donors was part of what Democrats derided as the GOP’s “culture of corruption.” If the Democrats ever took charge, they promised, all that would change.
Well, it hasn’t changed. Actually, it’s gotten worse. Democratic campaign committees are systematically showcasing a whole series of Democratic chairmen at fundraising receptions as a way to lure lobbyists’ money. That’s right, lobbyists are being asked to donate to the lawmakers who are in charge of the legislation that their clients care most about.