By Aaron Blake - 08/13/09 10:30 AM EDT
First-term Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) is no stranger to controversy and an upcoming fundraiser involving the congressman, Vice President Joe Biden and a federal lobbyist is no different.
The Orlando Sentinel broke the news Wednesday that the host committee for Grayson’s Biden fundraiser included federal lobbyist Dick Batchelor. When it comes to events involving the Obama administration, though, federal lobbyists are persona non grata.
But the battle only began there.
The Sentinel’s piece included a comment from National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) spokesman Andy Sere, who hit Grayson for having a “fat-cat lobbyist” on his host committee and violating White House rules.
Grayson’s campaign has been quiet, but Batchelor responded by sending an open e-mail to Sere challenging the NRCC to ban federal lobbyists just as the Obama administration does.
“This would go a long way to advance President Obama’s policy to dissuade such participation by registered lobbyists, and I am confident that your committee and the Republican campaigns for which you raise money will be more than happy to take the same principled stand as the Administration,” Batchelor wrote. “As you probably have heard, there is an old saying in the South: ‘This dog won’t hunt.’ Let’s see if your fat-cat will.”
Sere responded with his own open letter, asking Batchelor a series of questions including whether he has already secured contributions for the fundraiser and, if so, how much.
He also criticized Batchelor for trying to shift the focus to the NRCC’s fundraising policies.
“The request you made for a ‘reciprocal commitment’ in your letter below is nothing more than an attempt to distract from the central fact in this controversy: the White House imposed on their events a ban on the participation of federally-registered lobbyists, and Grayson broke that rule,” Sere wrote.
Batchelor and Grayson could not be immediately reached for a response.
The Biden fundraiser is set for Aug. 19. Biden is also doing a fundraiser for freshman Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.) next week.
Grayson has been a favorite target of the NRCC for his outspoken style and his attempt to secure an earmark for a controversial civil rights group and its head, who honored Grayson with an award in 2007.
Republicans are still trying to settle on a candidate to face him in 2010, with former state Sen. Dan Webster, Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty and state House Speaker Larry Cretul being mentioned.
An NRCC poll released last month showed Grayson leading Crotty by three points and Webster by four. Both were within the margin of error.
Grayson defeated incumbent Rep. Ric Keller (R) in 2008 in a battleground district.
-- This story was updated on Aug. 14 at 1:55 p.m. after the Grayson campaigned responded to The Hill's request for comment.
Grayson senior adviser Julie Tagen said in a statement: "Upon learning that Dick Batchelor is a federally registered lobbyist, we removed his name from the invitation and he will not be attending or otherwise involved with this event."