Report: GOP lawmakers selling access to top staffers

Report: GOP lawmakers selling access to top staffers
© Greg Nash

Congressional Republicans are offering donors chances to meet with congressional staff in exchange for campaign contributions, The Intercept reported Thursday.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) are advertising to donors that they will get invitations to events with congressional staff such as chiefs of staff, leadership staffers and committee staffers, the report said, citing documents it and the Center for Media and Democracy obtained.

Selling access to legislative staff could be in violation of ethics rules, which say campaigns can't use House and Senate resources in any way and that employees on Capitol Hill can't take part in fundraising as part of their official activities.

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Fundraising activities by Capitol Hill employees need to be done as volunteer work.

“You can’t use resources that are paid for by the taxpayer to service campaign donors. That’s blatantly illegal,” said Caroline Fredrickson, a former chief of staff to Sen. Maria CantwellMaria CantwellDems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity Overnight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief Dems urge Sessions to reject AT&T-Time Warner merger MORE (D-Wash.).

House ethics rules say official resources of the House "may not be used for campaign of political purposes," saying the rules reflect "the basic principle that government funds should not be spent to help incumbents gain reelection."

Documents obtained by The Intercept from the NRSC show that for $1,500 a year, one can receive an "Invitation to attend events with Republican Chiefs of Staff, Leadership Staff, and Committee staff."

According to a document from the NRCC, for a $5,000 annual contribution, members can get invitations to attend briefings by the NRCC political team and "House Leadership Staff."

“It’s the blatant buying and selling of access,” Michael Beckel, the research manager at IssueOne, a campaign finance reform group, told The Intercept.

“Congressional staffers, paid by the taxpayers, don’t have carte blanche ability to participate in political fundraising. A reasonable person could easily conclude that this selling of access would be prohibited under congressional ethics rules because it’s mixing official business with more than a de [minimis] amount of campaign activity.”