DC Delegate Norton Defends Fund-Raising Phone Calls

11:30 PM, Sep 23, 2010   |    comments
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WASHINGTON,DC (WUSA) --- Washington's congressional delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, is trying this week to fight implications on a conservative web site that she may have run afoul of ethics regulations when she phoned lobbyists to solicit campaign donations.

The website BigGovernment.com posted a recording of Norton asking for contributions from a lobbyist whose identity it obscured in the posting.

Norton confirmed to 9News Now that the voice on the recording is hers.

"This is Eleanor Holmes Norton, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.

"I had noticed that you have given to other colleagues on the Transportation & Infrastructure committee. I am a senior member, a 20-year veteran, and am Chair of the subcommittee Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management. I'm handling the largest economic development project in the United States now, the Homeland Security compound of three buildings being built on the old St. Elizabeth's Hospital site in The District of Columbia, along with 15 other sites here that are part of the stimulus.

"I was frankly surprised to see that we don't have a record, as far as I can tell, of you're having given to me, despite my long and deep work, in fact it's been my major work, on the committee and subcommittees, have been essentially in your sector.

"I am simply, candidly, calling to ask for a contribution.

The senior member of the committee and a subcommittee chair, we have obligations to raise funds and i think it must have been me who hasn't, frankly, done my homework to ask for a contribution earlier.

"I'm trying to make up for it by asking for one now, when we particularly need a contribution, specifically those of us who have the seniority and the chairmanships and are in a position to raise the funds. I am asking you to give to Citizens for Eleanor Holmes Norton. P.O. Box 70626, DC...I'll send you a follow up note with appreciation for having heard me out.

"Thanks, again."

When questioned Norton issued a statement on her website.

"The conservative blogger, Andrew Breitbart, best known for his misinformation concerning Shirley Sherrod, is trying to mislead again. He is circulating a voicemail of a standard request made by candidates to potential donors who do not know the candidates or their work.

Norton, therefore, identified herself as a subcommittee chair and the kind of work she has done in subcommittee.

Norton is a longtime supporter of public financing of campaigns, but barring that, candidates from all parties regularly raise funds in calls by first identifying who they are and what they have done. The call was made from campaign headquarters. Her request fully complied with legal and ethical requirements," the statement said.

After being chased by reporters Wednesday Night, Norton talked briefly with 9News Now about the controversy, denying she has had a tough several days because of the issue.

"Not at all. Not at all. A conservative blogger got ahold of a voice mail. We checked with counsel before we left the messages, and we checked after, and, because we were on a list of people who had never given to me, we were told, you know identify yourself, what your committee is, and what you do. So, that's what they told me before. That's what they told me after, so that doesn't give me much trouble, at all."

"You're not alone in doing this," asked 9News Now.

"Well, that's thats the only way to do it. I wasn't calling people who had given to me. I was calling people who hadn't and so that's what that is. It's done all over the congress, on both sides of the aisle," she said.

"When you're in a leadership position, of course, you raise for yourself and you raise to keep the majority. In our case keeping a majority is more important for the District than for any other district because we get hammered so badly when we're not in the majority," Norton said.

"Who were you talking to," 9NewsNow inquired.

"I don't know. They didn't give me the courtesy but it was certainly not someone I knew.

"That's why I had to identify myself. I was talking from a list that is provided. You can get this list from the D-Triple-C ( The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) and you look down the list and see who has given to you and who hasn't ..." she said.

"How many calls do you make in a situation like that?"

"I don't know I wish I knew, too many...I have no idea how many calls," she said.

"I'm a co-sponsor of the campaign reform bill but you're not likely to get that to happen.

"I believe in public financing of campaigns...I don't like raising money but you're not going to get public financing anytime soon. In fact the Supreme Court has made it worse not better, so if you are a Member of Congress and you are serious about being in the majority, then you meet your obligations and I've met mine fully within the law and within the rules of the House, I'm pleased to say," Norton told 9NewsNow.

"And anybody who gives money who thinks they're buying something, what would you tell them?"

"Nobody thinks that, fortunately. Nobody thinks that. They understand that this is what Members do," she said.

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