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In Washington, Lawmakers' Routines Shaped by Fundraising


For lawmakers in Washington, the daily chase for money can begin with a breakfast fundraiser in the side room of a Washington restaurant.

At noon, there might be a $500-per-plate lunch with lobbyists in a Capitol Hill town house. The day might wrap up in an arena sky box in downtown Washington, watching a basketball game with donors.

In between, there is "call time" - up to four or five hours a day for lawmakers in tough re-election campaigns - in telemarketing-style cubicles a few hundred yards from the Capitol. The call centers, set up by the Democratic and Republican parties, allow lawmakers to chase the checks that fuel campaigns without violating rules that ban fundraising from their offices.

For many lawmakers, the daily routine in Washington involves fundraising as much as legislating. The culture of nonstop political campaigning shapes the rhythms of daily life in Congress, as well as the landscape around the Capitol.

It also means that lawmakers often spend more time listening to the concerns of the wealthy than anyone else. [...]

House and Senate candidates last year raised more than half of their campaign funds from donors who gave $1,000 or more, according to the left-leaning research group Demos. That money came from a pool of donors who accounted for less than 1 percent of the population.