Democratic Sen. Patty Murray's Washington state staffers are spending Tuesday and Wednesday holding a staff retreat -- at a big time Seattle lobbying shop, according to a Seattle Times story posted last night. The paper talked to Strategies 360 founder Ron Dotzauer, who said he regularly allows groups to meet for free at his lobbying firm's offices and was not participating in the Murray staff event.
Even so, the optics are terrible. Consider, Dotzauer's firm has brought in close to $1 million so far this year lobbying the federal government on behalf of health care and agriculture clients while Murray is back in Washington co-chairing the Super Committee charged with making $1.2 trillion in spending cuts that are almost certain to affect Dotzauer's clients. Not to mention that Dotzauer is a big Democratic donor having given almost $5,000 to Murray since 2008, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And, as the Times reported, one of Murray's former deputy state directors is now a senior vice president at the firm.
Still, a Murray spokesman declared the meeting a "non-story," explaining to the Times that the staff has done similar off-site meetings at the Port of Seattle and local pizza shops.
After these headlines, Murray staffers might want to think about ordering pizza in for their next staff retreat.