Just days after the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, Hillary Clinton and several Democratic lawmakers will be getting uncomfortably cozy with moneyed interests who have stood to reap billions in post-9/11 homeland security spending, watchdog groups say.
One week later, the junior New York senator is scheduled to speak at a homeland security-themed, $1,000-a-plate fundraiser for her campaign in the downtown Washington, D.C. offices of a powerful legal firm.
"Being a week after 9/11, it appears unseemly and politically opportunistic," said Steve Ellis, a former Coast Guard officer who is now vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington, D.C. good government group.
Clinton's fundraising audience is expected to include many of the government contractors and lobbyists whose fortunes have soared in the years since the attacks, which triggered a massive government reorganization and billions in new government spending.
But that's not the only objectionable feature of the event, critics say.
For the price of a ticket -- from a $1,000 personal donation to a $25,000 bundle -- attendees will get a special treat after the luncheon: an opportunity to participate in small, hour-long "breakout sessions" hosted by key Democratic lawmakers, many of whom chair important subcommittees on the Homeland Security committee.
"It's an outrage," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Washington, D.C. good-government group Project on Government Oversight.
"You never want to see lawmakers trading on their national security credentials...to people making large donations," Ellis concurred.
The break-out sessions include:
First Responders, with Reps. Henry Cuellar, Texas (chair, Emergency Communications, Preparedness, and Response Subcommittee of Homeland Security Committee) and Nita Lowey, N.Y. (Appropriations, Homeland Security Committee)
Intelligence and Information Sharing, with Reps. Jane Harman, Calif. (chair, Intelligence, Information Sharing and Terrorism Risk Assessment Subcommittee of Homeland Security Committee) and C. A. "Dutch" Ruppersburger, Md. (chair, Technical and Tactical Intelligence Subcommittee of intelligence committee)
Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism, with Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas (chair, Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection Subcommittee of Homeland Security Committee) and Jerrold Nadler, N.Y. (Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; Judiciary Committee)
Science and Technology, with Reps. Jim Langevin, R.I. (chair, Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, Science and Technology Subcommittee of Homeland Security Committee; intelligence committee) and Ellen Tauscher, Calif. (chair, Strategic Forces Subcommittee of Armed Services Committee)
National Security, with Reps. Kendrick Meek, Fla. (Armed Services Committee) and Joseph Sestak, Pa. (Armed Services Committee)
"Political fundraising should have no relationship to policy recommendations," said Brian, a former policy analyst for Congress. "Most of these [participants] are seasoned policymakers. How can they not see this as wrong?" It only made things worse, she said, that the event was centered around so sensitive and vital a topic as homeland security.
The Clinton campaign and most lawmakers participating in the event did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
One participant, Rep. C. A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger, D-Md., said he didn't see anything wrong with the event.
"I very strongly feel that it's time we get politics out of national security," he said in an interview Monday. "It's more important than ever that we keep discussing national security."
"The unfortunate part of our [political] system is that to get your message out, you have to raise money," Ruppersberger said. "Until that system is changed, you have to have the ability to raise money so people know what you are and who you are."
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