Tags: Washington | Congress | campaign donors | fancy restaurants

Pols Drop Huge Sums Wooing Donors at Posh DC Eateries

By    |   Thursday, 07 May 2015 03:22 PM

If you like eating high on the hog at upscale dining establishments, especially in Washington, D.C., just win a seat in Congress.

Big-eating, big-spending members of Congress, flush with campaign cash, routinely drop hundreds of thousands of dollars entertaining would-be campaign contributors and, at times, each other, in some of the ritziest restaurants in the nation's capital, Politico discovered in a recent investigation.

In fact, some of the city's top flight eateries are so dependent on lawmakers' hefty appetites that in August, when Congress goes on recess, they often close their doors for vacation or remodeling.

During the past election season, Politico notes, members of Congress spent over $650,000 dining at the posh Capital Grille, including the biggest spender of all, Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., who dropped  $162,245 there.

Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., spent  $35,215 at the Capital Grille, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., dropped $30,233 and Rep. Robert Brady, D-Pa., spent $23,100, including, his staff told Politico, the cost of Capital Grille gift certificates Brady evidently likes to provide as thank you gifts.

Some congressmen apparently love steak — a lot. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Cal., spent $50,000 in the last election cycle at Ruth's Chris Steak House, Politico notes.

Others favor more hometown or exotic cuisine, like Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., who spent over $57,000 at the Acadiana, a New Orleans-style bistro, while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Cal., spent $27,000 at the Acqua Al 2, an Italian restaurant, and $10,000 at the Occidental Grill on Pennsylvania Avenue, which advertises itself as serving "Power lunches and dinners in a typical DC atmosphere."

Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., spent $24,873 at Maggiano's in his home state.

Kenneth Gross, ethics and election attorney, told Politico: "The House Ethics Committee typically gives (members of Congress) a wide berth in defining what is considered campaign or officially connected activities. However, under House and (Federal Election Commission) rules, personal use of campaign funds is strictly prohibited."

Congressional spending habits on costly chow are nothing new. McCarthy dropped $2,500 at Tex-Mex restaurant Qdoba in a single day and spent $10,000 there during the last quarter of 2012, the New York Daily News noted in 2013.

Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck will shutter his The Source restaurant for remodeling in August. The eatery has hosted fund-raisers for Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., former Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Texas.

"But don't worry," Politico commented. "The restaurant hopes to be open by Labor Day to ensure that it's available for all the four-figure-a-plate congressional meet-and-greets that will return as soon as Congress is back from recess."

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If you like eating high on the hog at upscale dining establishments, especially in Washington, D.C., just win a seat in Congress.
Washington, Congress, campaign donors, fancy restaurants
Thursday, 07 May 2015 03:22 PM
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