While Republican leadership in the House has taken great pains to project an image of austerity in order to match their aims at spending reductions in the federal budget, not everyone in the caucus will join in staying low-key as the 112th Congress opens.  Newly-elected Rep. Jeff Denham has invited his fellow freshmen to a splashy $2500-a-ticket fundraiser to boost their chances for re-election in 2012 … including his own.  John Boehner pointedly refused an invitation to the party, headlined by country singer LeAnn Rimes:

With Republican leaders anxious to set an austere tone for their ascendance into the House majority this week, the lavish fundraiser scheduled for Tuesday night at a trendy Washington hotel to benefit a dozen GOP freshmen is not exactly the populist image leaders are anxious to project.

House Speaker-elect John Boehner, whose name was featured on the invitation, is nonetheless skipping the event at the W Hotel, where lobbyists, political action committee managers and others paying the $2,500 ticket price will be treated to a performance by country music star LeAnn Rimes (a $50,000 package includes a block of eight tickets and a “VIP suite” at the W). The office of incoming Majority Leader Eric Cantor, another featured invitee, was noncommittal Monday night when asked whether he’d attend.

Matt Lewis criticized this a couple of weeks ago, not just for the event itself and its ticket price but also for the personal life of the entertainer Denham hired.  I suspect that if fundraiser organizers had to find entertainers who never cheated on a spouse or committed any other personal peccadillo, though, the choices might end up being limited to American Idol finalists.  Entertainers are hired to entertain, not represent the hosts, and unless the party takes place at a strip club (ahem, RNC!), it’s not an endorsement of dissolute personal behavior.

The fundraiser’s timing is questionable at best.  While all of these incoming Republican freshmen will have to eventually hold fundraisers for their re-election campaigns, it might be nice if their “singular focus” at the start of the new session of Congress was on legislation rather than on how to get their re-election campaigns funded.  It’s perhaps a small point, but in this case, the symbolism matters.  Voters sent them to Washington to end business as usual, not to engage in it before accomplishing anything.

What do you think?  Much ado about nothing or offensive?  Take the poll: