Congressman probing Commanders cancels fundraiser over ethics question


Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) has been investigating the Washington Commanders from his perch as chair of a House oversight subcommittee. He’s also raising money for his reelection.

Those two facts collided on Monday.

Krishnamoorthi abruptly canceled a fundraiser scheduled for Tuesday night after POLITICO approached his office with questions about the event. The issue: whether it was inappropriate for a pair of lobbyists, Mike Manatos and Tom Manatos, to explicitly invite donors to the event to discuss with the congressman the probe of the football team and its owner, Dan Snyder.

Linking pleas for campaign dollars to specific legislative actions is a no-no, and Krishnamoorthi’s camp quickly acknowledged as much.

“The Congressman is grateful that his efforts to stand up to some of the most powerful interests in Washington, from Big Tobacco to organizations like the Commanders, has generated enthusiasm from the public and some of his supporters,” a spokesperson for his campaign said in a statement. “However, we did not authorize any correspondence or outreach conducted for this general meet and greet event for Raja’s re-election campaign.”

“Out of an abundance of caution,” the statement added, “this event has been canceled.”

The brothers Manatos grew up in Washington and are longtime adversaries of Snyder. In mid-April, they sent an email to friends inviting them to the fundraiser, along with this message: “The one person in Washington who may have found a path to getting rid of Snyder [as the team’s owner] is my good friend and Chairman of the House Oversight Subcommittee, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi.”

“Tom and I hope you can join us on May 10 as a small group of us meets with Raja to discuss his efforts,” Mike Manatos wrote in the email, later adding: “Attached is an invitation with the details.”

They also mentioned how the congressman had sent a 20-page letter to the Federal Trade Commission accusing the team of engaging in “a troubling, long-running, and potentially unlawful pattern of financial conduct that victimized thousands of team fans and the National Football League (NFL).”

After POLITICO asked Krishnamoorthi for comment on Monday afternoon, he canceled the fundraiser. Mike Manatos, who is president of the lobbying firm Manatos & Manatos, said in a statement that outreach for the event, which was going to include supporters representing various Washington interests, was done entirely on his own and not coordinated with Krishnamoorthi or his staff.

“In the 85 years and 3 generations that my family has been working with the federal government, when we find a Senator or Member who is doing work that we think is in the best interest of our country and our community, we are happy to try to help that policymaker remain in office,” he said. “And the only way that non-constituents can do so is by contributing to and raising funds to help them get re-elected.”

His brother Tom, the head of federal affairs at Block (formerly Square) and the founder of Tom Manatos Jobs, a top political jobs list, five years ago launched the website FireDanSnyder.org, among other efforts targeting the team and its owner. He declined to comment.

A former longtime team employee claimed in March that the team undercounted revenue from tickets (which would have hurt other NFL teams as some profits are shared) and did not give some fans proper refunds. The Commanders strongly denied any financial impropriety, saying in a lengthy letter to the FTC that the employee was not involved in the accounting work at issue.