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"You spend most of your time dodging calls." - Jimmy Williams, former lobbyist (Courtesy of Jimmy Williams)

Why Lobbyists Dodge Calls From Congressmen

by Andrea Seabrook
Apr 19, 2012 (Morning Edition)

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This story is part of our series on money in politics.

We imagine the lobbyist stalking the halls of Congress trying to use cash to influence important people. But it doesn't always work that way. Often, the Congressman is stalking the lobbyist, asking for money.

Lawmakers of both parties need to raise millions of dollars per election cycle. So lobbyists get calls from lawmakers and their staffs all the time, inviting them to fundraisers, according to Jimmy Williams, a former lobbyist for the real estate industry.

"A lot of them would call and say 'Hey ... can you host an event for me?'" Williams says. "You spend most of your time dodging phone calls."

But when a Congressman calls and you need his vote, you agree to host a fundraiser. That means finding other people to come and give money.

"So I call up my buddies down on K Street," Williams says. "I'm gonna do this event for this guy, and he sits on the House Financial Services committee. You guys have any money for this person?"

With a lot of these events, there's space on the invitation to put your credit card number. Some lobbyists send their donation in ahead of time. Others bring the money to the event.

"We have a policy that all checks have to be hand delivered," says Scott Talbott, a lobbyist for the financial services industry. "So we have to go up and eyeball the candidate... Wouldn't you remember if someone handed you a check rather than sent it in the mail?"

Tomorrow on Morning Edition: What those checks are buying.

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