January 20, 2006
Goin' off the rails on a gravy train

Hey, remember Joe Barton's Excellent Lobbyist Choo Choo Ride? It's taking off today from Fort Worth and arriving in San Antonio late tonight, with stops along the way. Why not take a moment to greet him and his close personal buddies as they chug through Texas? Annatopia has the trip itinerary. While you're there, why not ask him the question that Ruth Marcus posed last Friday?

[It's a hot ticket], even at the sticker-shock price of $2,000 per individual, $5,000 per political action committee -- hotel rooms not included. As of this writing, 132 attendees had signed up -- mostly from what's commonly referred to as the PAC community, as if they had a unifying belief in something beyond the efficacy of campaign checks.

I write about the Barton fund-raiser not to single out the chairman -- though you could question the tastefulness of an event that features an after-hours tour of the Alamo, "shrine of Texas liberty," to help harvest campaign checks. Indeed, what's noteworthy about the event is, in part, its disturbing ordinariness. Lawmakers with enough clout and party committees have these sorts of getaways all the time: ski weekends in Vail, summer jaunts to Nantucket, Super Bowl outings, golf tournaments with this or that committee chair.

"It's a high-dollar fund-raiser like any other," says Barton consultant Craig Murphy, noting that the congressman had not previously hosted such an event. "Guess he's the last one on the train to do it." (Well, at least his train is a string of private rail cars.)

The Barton fund-raiser, first reported by Roll Call, is perfectly legal. The money he collects will eventually be disclosed in his campaign finance reports.

But no one -- no one who isn't on the train, anyway -- would be able to discern from the official paper trail that the $5,000 PAC check purchased a weekend with the chairman. Indeed, when I asked for the names of those attending, or even the identity of the PACs they represented, the Barton campaign demurred. That's its prerogative, but if there's nothing embarrassing about these private parties, why the squeamishness about making the guest list public?

Emphasis mine. Maybe they just don't want to admit that they'll be spending the time on the train playing Whale's Tails and Never Have I Ever. Lord knows I'd want to keep that a secret.

Anyway, if you think this sort of thing is not what a representative of the people should be doing, just remember that you have a choice. You won't get any free martinis for donating to David Harris' campaign, but that's all right. They're probably watering down those drinks on the trainanyway to improve the net take.

My sincere thanks to Eye on Williamson for the best blog post title of 2006.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 20, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

I second that blog title vote!

Posted by: Michelle on January 20, 2006 7:47 PM