Democrat challenges Sweeney fundraiser with lobbyist -- Newsday.com
Newsday.com - Democrat challenges Sweeney fundraiser with lobbyist:This is a good one.
"By DEVLIN BARRETT Associated Press Writer
January 17, 2006, 3:24 PM EST
WASHINGTON -- A would-be challenger to Rep. John Sweeney took aim Tuesday at the Republican congressman over a ski-weekend fundraiser in Park City, Utah with a pharmaceutical industry lobbyist.
'Skiing with Sweeney' was billed as a $2,000 contribution-per-person event last weekend at a ski resort, where, according to the invite, the Sweeney room rate was $349 a night.
Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democratic lawyer seeking to run against Sweeney, charges the event undercuts Sweeney's effort to fix recent troubles in Congress including a burgeoning congressional corruption probe by holding new party leadership elections.
'The congressman talked about reform and here he is out at this posh resort doing the same old business,' said Gillibrand campaign manager Bill Hyers.
Melissa Carlson, a Sweeney spokeswoman, called the charges 'malicious, self-serving, and hypocritical.'
Sweeney has called for new elections for all House GOP leaders except Speaker Dennis Hastert, saying the Republican members need to do some 'soul searching.'
The congressional probe centers around corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with a federal criminal probe of a number of members of Congress and staffers.
Days after Abramoff's guilty pleas, former majority leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, announced he would not seek to reclaim the post. DeLay was already battling a felony campaign finance indictment in his home state.
Sweeney has not been linked to any of the corruption allegations, but Gillibrand's camp charged Tuesday that the ski fundraiser showed the congressman is part of the lobbyist problem in Washington.
The invite included a dinner at the Park City home of Jeff Kimbell, a medical and pharmaceutical industry lobbyist.
'Are we really treating the voters of the district well by having some swanky dinner to raise money for his campaign at this pharmaceutical lobbyist's house when obviously low-cost prescription drugs are a big issue in the district?' said Hyers.
Sweeney's office countered that, during the trip, Sweeney met with an executive of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association to talk about economic development in and around Lake Placid, N.Y., and said his opponent Gillibrand had failed to follow basic campaign reporting rules.
'Ms. Gillibrand has chosen the low road in her first campaign for office in a district she barely knows, for people she's never met, for reasons we may never know,' said Carlson.
Sweeney's campaign has received more than $50,000 from lobbyists for the 2006 election cycle, second only to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., among New York members of Congress, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political fundraising.
Gillibrand plans to announce a policy that every meeting with a lobbyist should be publicly disclosed.
'We need to set a new standard (in which) you need to fully disclose every single thing about that meeting,' said Hyers. 'That's reasonable, especially in this climate.'"