Anheuser-Busch Lobbyists Sell Access to Democratic Congressional Staff
The Bud Light maker owns a secret bar in Washington, D.C. for political insiders.
Carefully hidden inside an otherwise nondescript office tower in the middle of Washington, D.C., with a sweeping view of Pennsylvania Avenue, there’s a secret bar just for political insiders.
Last Thursday, I was promptly kicked out of it.
The lobbying division of Anheuser-Busch, the beer-making conglomerate that produces Bud Light, Michelob, and other brands, owns the bar. The invitation-only pub is off-limits to the public, and the event I briefly attended was an ethically-dubious influence-peddling operation.
While fundraisers for lawmakers are everyday occurrences across the luxurious bars and restaurants that line Capitol Hill and Penn Quarter, this event was slightly different.
Political operatives desperate for cash are turning to brazenly pitching access to congressional staffers that manage the day-to-day work of members of Congress.
Such was the case last week. The lobbyists at Anheuser-Busch offered their private bar to Elect Democratic Women PAC, a group that raised $7.8 million for the Democrats last year. The event was billed as a “Chiefs of Staff Happy Hour,” with tickets ranging from $500 to $5,000.
At the event, I took a picture of the sign-in list of the legislative staff for the event, which showed many Democratic staffers:
– Rebecca Walldorff, the chief of staff to Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Ga.
– Caitlin-Jean Juricic, the legislative counsel to Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Tex.
– Serena Gobbi, the legislative director to Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif.
– Sean Gard, chief of staff to Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wisc.
– Becky Salay, chief of staff to Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.
– John Gorczynski, chief of staff to Rep. Sylvia Garcia, D-Tex.
– Sarah Curtis, chief of staff to Rep. Kathy Manning, D-N.C.
Experts say that the fundraiser tests the boundaries of ethics rules.
"The solicitation of campaign contributions by the PAC with promises of meeting and mingling with “Chiefs of Staff” is a pay-for-access scheme that may well run afoul of congressional ethics rules," said Craig Holman, a lobbying expert with Public Citizen.