Fundraiser causing political stir

June 30, 2010 8:55:23 PM PDT
A fundraiser held this week in the capital city is sparking controversy. The Democratic Party says it was a modest fundraiser meant as a simple thank you to lawmakers for serving, not a chance for pay-to-play influence padding.

"The money we raised (Tuesday) is for the party's operating budget," said Andrew Whalen with the Democratic Party. "It goes to pay things like the light bill, our water bill."

State law forbids lawmakers from taking political donations from lobbyists while the General Assembly is in session, but lobbyists can donate to political parties at any time.

"This is the fundraiser that causes there to be ethics laws in the first place," said Tom Fetzer, head of the North Carolina GOP. "If the Democratic Party needs to shake down lobbyists to pay the light bill, they are in a lot more trouble than they think they are."

Republicans have pounced on the event, claiming it was timed to leverage lobbyists at the most sensitive moment --when bills are rushed at the end of session.

"The day before a budget vote and very ironically, the day before another vote on another ethics law," Fetzer said.

The state's Democratic chair says his Republican counterpart cannot claim a high road on fundraising.

"I've never once heard him complain about the dozens of fundraisers with special interest lobbyists in DC that Richard Burr attends on an almost daily basis," Whalen said. "He's silent on those things."

Democrats claim the fundraiser made only about $5,000 and some lobbyists say with that kind of return it's not worth the headache.

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