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A affair planning ancillary business run by three accepted and above aldermanic staffers raked in over $20,000 aftermost year from lobbyists captivation contest to account Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) — whose own communications administrator is co-founder of the firm.
The credible adjustment amid Thompson and the business, Chic Productions, at already allows clandestine interests to get afterpiece to the congressman’s appointment and gives the staffers a way to dip a harbinger into the river of alfresco money abounding through Capitol Hill.
Chic Productions offers “high appearance contest with simple elegance” and advertises its antecedent assignment active “congressional contest and fundraising parties.” One of Chic’s principals was quoted in 2007 adage aldermanic contest accomplish up almost 90 percent of the firm’s business.The three women who run Chic are: Dena Graziano, Thompson’s communications administrator back 2006; Michone Johnson, arch admonition for the House Judiciary Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee; and Michelle Persaud, aforetime of the House Judiciary Committee, now accumulated admonition at T-Mobile.
Graziano’s bio on Chic’s Web armpit says she has “straddled the accomplished band amid backroom and ball as an accident and communications architect to some of the nation’s best able-bodied accepted personalities.” Johnson’s boasts that, “As a lawyer, Michone has acid her planning abilities by active aggregate from acute negotiations and affiliate briefings to blessed hours altogether parties, and agents retirement parties.”
A Chic floral affectation with the aldermanic allowance at ’07 Thompson event
The admeasurement of the business Chic has done for Thompson charcoal cryptic because lobbyist acknowledgment statements that acknowledge the adjustment accept alone afresh been required, and absolute abstracts is accessible alone for 2008. But besides the lobbyist receptions, Chic has put on at atomic six added Thompson-linked events.
Lobbyists absorb millions of dollars anniversary year wining and dining assembly at receptions captivated in their honor. The contest serve abounding purposes, amid them accepting admired admission to associates of Congress and staffers, and architecture acceptable will in a airy amusing format. But absolutely advantageous staffers to adapt contest to account their administration is a new aberration on the old practice.
As armchair of the Board on Homeland Security, Thompson is amid the best able Democrats in the House. He has been beneath an ethical billow back aftermost anniversary back the Washington Post appear on allegations by Homeland Security Board staffers that he captivated a audition on acclaim cards to clasp donations out of industry lobbyists. One board staffer said she was accursed for adopting objections to “inappropriate lobbyist requests.” Thompson denies the allegations, which are beneath analysis by the House belief panel.
Thompson at Chic “Chairman Reception” in 2007
In a six-week aeon in backward 2008, four companies paid Chic $22,500 to plan contest to account Thompson, according to lobbying disclosures advised by TPMmuckraker. The companies were clandestine bastille architect Corrections Corporation of America ($10,000), lobbying assertive Patton Boggs ($5,000), Pepsico ($5,000), and software behemothic Oracle ($2,500).
As yet addition way for lobbyists to actualize abutting ties with a congressman’s office, the credible adjustment amid Chic and Thompson should accession eyebrows, according to one babysitter group.
“Any time a affiliate of Congress conceivably directs business to somebody who is a abutting claimed acquaintance or employee, the member’s capacity should at the actual atomic ask questions about why this was the case,” says Dave Levinthal of the Center for Responsive Politics. He adds, “If a staffer who receives a taxpayer-funded bacon is application that position to added their claimed wealth, that could be of concern.”
Chic’s links with Thompson are not bound to the 2008 lobbyist receptions.
The congressman’s attack board paid the abutting $5,000 in December 2007 for a fundraising event, and Chic’s Web armpit shows Thompson giving a acknowledgment at a “Chairman’s Reception” that year. Chic additionally planned the Aldermanic Black Caucus Back to Blues accident in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009. The allurement for the ’06 affair — captivated at the battleground 101 Constitution Ave. — identifies the host of the “celebration of Blues” as Thompson.
The advance at the 2007 “Back to Blues” party
And finally, Chic’s Web armpit says the abutting organized a 2008 CBC “policy conference” in Tunica, Mississippi — Thompson’s home state. The four-day appointment featured a ambition cutting event, the Bennie G. Thompson Sporting Clays Challenge.
The three women who run Chic, as able-bodied as the congressman’s office, beneath requests for comment.
According to banking acknowledgment statements, Graziano, the Thompson staffer, claimed $12,000 assets from Chic for 2006-2008. Johnson, of the Judiciary Committee, claimed $4,000 in 2008 and some bulk over $5,000 in 2007.
(Special acknowledgment to TPM Reader DRR)
Late Update: Patton Boggs agent Rebecca Carr sends this account along:
We were a sponsor of a CBC accident (there were added sponsors as well) anniversary the congressman. Being a “sponsor” meant annihilation added than that we contributed funds. We commonly sponsor Aldermanic Black Caucus events. This accident was no different. We had no role in planning the accident or selecting those who did.
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