Congressmen have held fundraisers and collected checks while writing new laws from contributors who have a major stake in how the legislation turns out. Take financial regulation. In June, the 35 members of a joint House and Senate committee took in $440,000 in donations from the financial industry, which was calling for looser rules. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MO) held a birthday fundraiser for himself on the same day the Senate made its first vote on a $858 billion tax package. "Citizens generally feel this kind of thing falls between the bookends of 'icky' and 'bribery,'" said one ethics watchdog.