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The Abramoff Investigation and Lobbyists' Home Cooking

Two items in this morning’s Roll Call worthy of mention.

Item #1: File Under “Abramoff”

The Department of Justice requested the personal financial records of at least nine members of Congress and at least seven former congressional aides last year, Roll Call [subscription req.] reports.

The newspaper notes that many of the requests appear to be related to the Fed’s widening investigation into the Abramoff scandal. The list includes the usual suspects – Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), Reps. Bob Ney (R.-Ohio) and John Doolittle (R-Calif.) – all of whom made our “Ethics Hall of Shame,” as well some surprises: Reps. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), John Sweeney (R-N.Y.) and Del. Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa).

It’s not clear yet why these lawmakers, who have never before been publicly linked to the ongoing Abramoff investigation, were among those whose records were pulled. We’re just relieved that someone is looking into this, and that the investigation is progressing.

Item #2: Lobbying Goes Underground

Gone are the days when members of Congress could treat fifty of their closest friends to a skybox reception at the MCI center. That’s because these lavish, champagne toasts alongside professional sports games are now too risky and too ripe for the picking by enterprising journalists. Rather than hold public fundraising events, some lobbyists are opting for the privacy afforded by their own dining rooms, Roll Call [subscription req.] reports.

“A lot of lobbyists have talked about doing more events out of your house,” a Democratic lobbyist said. “We’re all looking around the corner and thinking about how are you going to preserve the relationships you have and also grow them so you have the ability to talk more extensively with staff. I’ve heard people talk about maybe [having people] host different dinners in their house.”

I guess that means Jack Abramoff’s old Signatures restaurant won’t be hosting many fundraisers this year. The former fine-dining establishment was once a highly regarded fundraising spot by Washington’s political elite. Even House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) used the restaurant; in June 2003, Hastert held a fundraiser at the restaurant that raised $21,500 for his Keep Our Majority political action committee from Abramoff’s firm and tribal clients. Now that public fundraising events are too…er…public, don’t be surprised if Washington-area caterers see an up-tick in business.

-Jess Kutch