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GOP Cashes In On The Boss

Bruce Springsteen campaigned aggressively for the last two Democratic presidential candidates, but that hasn’t stopped Republicans from joining Democrats in cashing in on the Boss’s Monday night concert in Washington. 

At least 15 lawmakers and political committees – including half a dozen Republican ones – are planning fundraisers at the sold-out concert at the Verizon Center. 

Although most tickets to Monday’s show had face values of less than $100, lobbyists and political action committee directors are plunking down upwards of $2,000 to watch Springsteen while shmoozing members of Congress – including some who seem unlikely to know the words to “Thunder Road.” 

Take Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), who worked on then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign before running for office. He’s attending the concert as part of a fundraiser for the House Conservatives Fund, a PAC he chairs that lists its mission as seeking “to return the Republican party to its Ronald Reagan roots.” 

That’s not exactly Springsteen’s mission. Springsteen scoffed when Reagan invoked his name during the 1984 presidential campaign, and he has savaged George W. Bush in both spoken words and song. In a recent interview, he called the Bush administration “historically blind,” and said that “thousands of people died, lives were ruined and terrible, terrible things occurred because there was no sense of real history, no sense that the past is living and real.” 

A Springsteen spokeswoman did not respond to messages asking how the Boss felt about indirectly assisting Republicans fundraising. 

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McHenry spokesman Brock McCleary said his boss is “a casual fan” of Springsteen’s – and that the House Conservatives Fund sold all of its tickets to Monday night’s show. 

Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) – the only member from Springsteen’s native New Jersey throwing a fundraiser at the Verizon Center — sold 20 tickets to supporters for suggested contributions of $2,000 each. 

“Just two Garden State guys doing a little bipartisanship Jersey-style,” said Lance’s chief of staff Todd Mitchell, who likewise described his boss as a casual fan. Mitchell pointed out that the Lance knew the late E Street Band keyboardist Danny Federici, who up in the congressman’s hometown of Flemington. 

“They were a few years apart and went to rival high schools,” Mitchell said.

Other Republicans congressmen holding or attending fundraisers at the concert include Dave Camp of Michigan, Darrel Issa of California, John McHugh of New York and Tom Petri of Wisconsin.

Rock concerts are not an uncommon venue for political fundraisers, said Nancy Watzman, who posted invitations to several Springsteen fundraisers at her political fundraising blog through the non-partisan watchdog group Sunlight Foundation.

“Democrats do it and Republicans do it. They tend to have different musical choices, though,” Watzman said, conceding Monday’s cluster of Springsteen fundraisers are “quite a number for any particular concert, but that speaks to Bruce being The Boss.” 

Watzman, herself a Springsteen fan, paid about $100 to see his recent concert in Denver. “I probably didn’t get as much bang for my buck, though, because I can’t call up a member of Congress now and say ‘Hey, remember when he played ‘Born to Run?’ Well, I have this bill I want to introduce.’” 

On the other side of the aisle, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is asking $5,000 a pop for the privilege of attending the concert with Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who “has a lot of respect for what [Springsten] does,” according to a spokesman. 

The fundraiser is hosted by the American Resort Development Association PAC, while one benefitting Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) is hosted by The American College of Radiology. Kind’s supporters – or others willing to pay $2,500 – can spend the hour beforehand at a pre-concert reception at Rosa Mexicana, the swanky Mexican restaurant across the street, where servers prepare guacamole tableside. 

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is holding a VIP reception for donors who pay $1,500 to attend the concert with him, while New York Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley’s leadership PAC is asking $1,000 per person or $2,500 per PAC to attend the show. 

Other Dems holding fundraisers at the Springsteen concert include: 

-Rep. Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania: $1,500 per person, $2,500 per PAC 

-Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon: $1,500 per person, $2,500 per PAC 

-Rep. Baron Hill of Indiana: $2,500  

-Rep. Edolphus Towns of New York: $1,500 per person, $2,500 per PAC

-Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland: $1,500 per person, $2,500 per PAC  

Meanwhile, Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr, a New Jersey Democrat who is a bona fide Springsteen fan (“The Promised Land” is his favorite tune, according to a spokesman), on Monday afternoon asked for a federal investigation into a vendor that re-sold tickets for non-existent seats in the Verizon Center. 

Thousands of fans “who purchased tickets from TicketsNow may be left standing outside the arena,” Pascrell wrote to the Federal Trade Commission. “The tickets they believed were legitimately purchased through TicketsNow turned out not to exist.” 

TicketsNow is offering refunds, gift certificates and tickets to other concerts to affected customers. But Pascrell, who is not attending the concert, wrote that the incident “raises the questions about whether TicketsNow and other websites that provide a marketplace for secondary sales should allow tickets to be made available without verification that the sellers are actually in possession of the tickets they claim to have.”