At least Phil Gramm has a sense of humor about hitting up the Washington lobbyist community for campaign contributions.
"I know, my friend, that you have been burdened this year by the oppressive weight of that extra $1,000 that you have yet to give to my reelection campaign," the Republican senator from Texas wrote in the invitation to his final Washington fund-raiser next week over breakfast at the Grand Hotel. "I've heard the whispers all over town, about how you've been hauling it around for so many months that your suit pockets are sagging."
Not that Gramm -- or many other incumbents sweeping up funds in the last six weeks before the fall elections -- particularly needs the money.
Conferees have yet to meet on campaign finance reform legislation that might lessen incumbents' overwhelming financial advantages. Meanwhile, the fund-raising invitations stack up on the desk of Washington lawyers and lobbyists as members join Gramm in seeking that "extra $1,000."
Gramm's latest filing at the Federal Election Commission shows he had $6.2 million in the bank while his opponent had $20,000. Spokesman Larry Neel said Gramm is still raising money because "our campaign office is on a budget that anticipates substantial opposition and I still believe it will develop. Senators who take campaigns for granted become ex-senators," Neel added. About 70 people will attend the $1,000 breakfast, including several members of the Bush Cabinet.
Rep. Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.) is another member of Congress who takes nothing for granted. As of Aug. 22, he had $1.6 million in his campaign account and an opponent who hadn't raised enough to file FEC reports. Still, Solarz is holding a 50th birthday fund-raiser Thursday at the Carpenters and Joiners Building. Tickets are $100 for individuals and $500 for political action committees (PACs).
Spokesman Bob Hathaway said Solarz continues to build his campaign account because he doesn't have great personal wealth and might face an expensive reelection fight after redistricting. "This is a prudent measure until we see how many seats New York loses and where they are," he added.
Rep. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) isn't having a birthday party, but held a "Brooklyn style" fund-raiser scheduled last night at the carpenters' building. He had $1.4 million in the bank a month ago; his opponent less than the $5,000 needed to file reports.
Other events set for last night included a "Night of Stars" featuring Sonny Bono, mayor of Palm Springs and former Cher spouse, for Rep. Alfred A. McCandless (R-Calif.), and a night at Arena Stage for Rep. Don J. Pease (D-Ohio). There are at least 14 fund-raisers scheduled around town today, among them an "Oktoberfest" at Cafe Berlin for Rep. Steve Gunderson (R-Wis.) and tickets to "Shogun" at the Kennedy Center for Rep. Bill Green (R-N.Y.).
Some incumbents send letters, rather than engraved invitations, to solicit funds. Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) said he had to ask for donations to his fund-raising breakfast Thursday at the Capitol Hill Club "because of the current political and economic climate" in the state. He said he was confident of victory but needed "adequate resources to get my message to the voters" because his district is "marginal" and he had to be prepared for "voter backlash."
He didn't mention that he won 68 percent of the vote in 1988 or that his opponent hadn't raised enough money to file with the FEC.
In his invitation to an Oct. 1 dinner at the Palm Restaurant, Rep. Charles Hatcher (D-Ga.) told potential donors he had opposition and it is "imperative that I now immediately raise money for this election challenge." His challenger hasn't raised enough money yet to have to file FEC reports.
Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Fla.) sent PAC directors a letter last month noting that he had an opponent for the first time since 1982. He allowed that Democrat Robert Fletcher "is a relative unknown, but his own resources and ties to far left organizations which strongly oppose me require a full reelection campaign on my part." As of Aug. 15, McCollum had $271,590 in the bank, Fletcher about $1,300 after subtracting debts.