Earlier this year I described my night at the Capitol Hill Club, the exclusive private watering hole for Republican elected officials and their supporters, primarily lobbyists. The club boasts a variety of restaurants and bars, like the “75 Room” which a brochure describes as a “superb venue for viewing House and Senate deliberations, small meetings, relaxing between appointments, or catching up on your messages.” The club also sponsors annual golf tournaments with Congressional leaders, theater evenings, winemaker dinners, holiday brunches, and other events.”
But a big problem has emerged for the club: Republicans are now the minority party in Congress, and are likely to be trounced in the November elections. Hence, fewer people want to join the club or hang out there given that G.O.P. members of Congress have so little power nowadays when it comes to slipping a tax break into legislation or inserting an earmark into an appropriations bill. It’s no coincidence that business is booming at the opposition Democratic Club, which is located just a few blocks away.
Just how bad are times at the Capitol Hill Club? I obtained a July 29 club fundraising letter that paints a pathetic scene. During the first six months of the year, a mere 162 new members joined the club, but 100 people resigned. As a lure to boost membership, the letter–signed by club president Raymond J. McGrath, head of the Downey McGrath Group, one of the most powerful lobby shops in town–offers a half-price deal on new member initiation fees.
Management has also had to add “menu items to enhance the club’s affordability to a greater number of members.” This includes the “Lunch Square Meal Deal” for $10.50. I’m guessing that most Green Party member are able to spend more on lunch than these sad-sack Republicans.
The club remains popular as a spot for G.O.P. fundraising events, but the “average number of guests at those events has declined.” To raise revenues, the letter asks members to sponsor parties at the club–“Weddings, Rehearsal Dinners, Birthdays, Anniversaries, Fly-Ins, Corporate Meetings, and Holiday Parties.” And it gets worse: in an even more desperate effort to staunch the cash-drain, the club is introducing a new line of “retail items to consider as gifts and party favors.”