Congress

This is what it costs to fish with Idaho’s Sen. Crapo

Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo speaks with a reporter from his office on Capitol Hill in September 2016. | McClatchy file photo
Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo speaks with a reporter from his office on Capitol Hill in September 2016. | McClatchy file photo McClatchy

Got $15,000? If so, Sen. Mike Crapo’s campaign invites you and a guest to a dinner with Senate banking subcommittee chairmen.

$10,000 raised or donated gets you one seat. But giving or raising either sum allows access to a good time with Crapo, the Senate Banking Committee chairman, including fishing on the Chesapeake Bay or a fall retreat at the posh Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia.

“The campaign is quite literally selling access in exchange for money,” said Brendan Fischer, director of the federal reform program at the Campaign Legal Center, a group that advocates for reducing the influence of money in politics.

Neither he nor Paul Ryan, vice president, policy & litigation at Common Cause, saw anything in the Crapo invitation that violates any law, as neither the senator nor anyone else is expressly offering to write or support legislation.

“Clearly the intent is selling access and influence. What it is not doing is selling action,” Ryan said.

But, Fischer added, “Mike Crapo’s constituents are not going to have this opportunity to go fishing with him unless they give him $15,000.”

Crapo’s campaign, in a statement to McClatchy, said the senator “has made it his priority to be accessible to Idahoans who wish to meet with him. He regularly travels between Idaho and D.C.”

The statement said Crapo has hosted approximately 300 town meetings in the last four years.

“During times when the Senate is in session, he regularly meets with Idahoans who come to D.C. and request to meet with him. All of his fundraising activities are within the appropriate laws and regulations regarding such activity,” the statement added.

The funds from the events, billed as “Senator Mike Crapo’s 2019 Max Out Package,” can go to helping get Crapo re-elected in 2022, while also allowing the veteran senator to donate to other campaigns.

Idaho Republican Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch both attended the May 24, 2018 ceremony where President Donald Trump signed into law Crapo's bill easing some Dodd-Frank bank regulations.

The Crapo invitation was disclosed by Political Party Time, a nonpartisan group that tracks fundraising events.

The invitation gives no details about the subcommittee chairmen dinners, other than it’s to take place in Washington this summer. The fishing trip is scheduled for April 28-29, and the Greenbrier retreat is scheduled for Nov. 15-16.

The invitation offers three packages. Gold members, who give or raise $15,000, can get the chairmen’s dinner, a Washington reception with Crapo, one retreat, “a lunch of dinner of your choice” and two tickets to the “Annual Idaho Potato Fest.”

The silver package, for those giving or raising $10,000, offers much of the same, but only one ticket to the chairmen’s dinner and the potato fest.

A bronze plan, available to those who give or raise $5,000, entitles a person to one of the retreats, the Crapo Washington reception, and the choice of a lunch or the potato fest.

Crapo, a senator since 1999, heads one of the Senate’s most powerful committees. It oversees the Federal Reserve Board, writes laws governing financial institution and securities policy and is supposed to be a watchdog and advocate for consumers.

It has five subcommittees:

Economic policy. Headed by Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, its jurisdiction includes federal monetary policy, flood insurance, financial aid to commerce and industry and small business lending.

Financial institutions and consumer protection. Chaired by Sen. Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican, the panel oversees the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as well as banks, savings institutions and credit unions.

Housing, Transportation and Community Development. Sen. David Perdue, a Georgia Republican, heads a subcommittee that keeps an eye on the Department of Housing and Urban Development, urban mass transit, the Federal Housing Administration and senior housing policy.

National Security and International Trade and Finance. Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, is chairman. The panel’s jurisdiction includes export policy and the International Trade Administration.

Securities, Insurance and Investment. Headed by Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, the subcommittee oversees financial exchanges and markets, securities, annuities, accounting standards and insurance.

All five subcommittee chairmen were asked for comment. Sasse’s office referred McClatchy to Crapo’s office. None of the others responded.

Crapo, like most senators, has a campaign committee and a Leadership PAC. Because the amount of contributions to a campaign committee is limited, such PACs allow donors to give more to a candidate. The candidate can then give money to others, who in turn might be able to help him if elected.

Being a committee chairman is a magnet for donors. Between 2013 and last year, Crapo received $1.4 million from the securities industry and another $1 million from the insurance industry, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

David Lightman is McClatchy’s chief congressional correspondent. He’s been writing, editing and teaching for 47 years, with stops in Hagerstown, Riverside, Calif., Annapolis, Baltimore and since 1981, Washington.

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