A $1,000-per-plate fundraising dinner put on by House Majority Leader Jim Wright (D-Tex.) last night was labeled a "lobbyist's delight" by Common Cause.
Common Cause Vice President Fred Wertheimer was critical of the whole practice of holding fundraisers in Washington, but said Wright's party, held at the Madison Hotel, was the "Super Bowl" of such events. "It gave every special interest in Washington the opportunity to be helpful financially to the second most powerful man in the House of Representatives," Wertheimer said in a statement issued in advance of the affair.
An aide to Wright said about 200 people were to attend the event, but refused to speculate on how much money would be raised. "Some of those tickets were complimentary to the House leadership and others," he said.
The money is to be used to help Wright's Democratic colleagaues in their election campaigns, and Wright defended the dinner as part of a majority leader's duty.
"There is nothing either new or covert in this activity, nor anything for which to apologize," Wright said.
Those invited to the fundraiser were characterized only as "friends and acquaintances of Jim Wright" by his aide, but Wertheimer said, "The invitees to Washington fundraisers are invariably Washington lobbyisis and the interest groups they represent."
Wright argued that Republicans have alrady raised $8 million in campaign funds and said, "What I am doing . . . is an attempt to redress in small meaure that gaping inbalance."
Common Cause said that at least 63 House members held D.C. fundraising events in 1977.
"These fundraisers play a central role in channeling contributions to incumbents," Wertheimer said. He called them "an institution that ought to be done away with," but added they would continue "until the present system fof financcing congressional races is changed."
Common Cause is lobbying hard to push through the house this year a bill to extend public financing to House races.
Wright said he is a cosponsor of public financing legislation, but in its absence it was necessary to raise money "using every lawful and honest means."
Wright was elected majority leader last year by a one-vote margin, and in addition to helping his colleagues, an aide acknowledged, Wright is trying to help himself by cementing his position with his colleagues to stave off any possible challenge next year.