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Locked in an expensive congressional primary race with Democratic former state senator Denise Moreno Ducheny, current Democratic state senator Juan Vargas has turned to the insurance lobby in Washington, D.C. to help raise campaign cash.

Two key influence peddlers with ties to the property casualty insurance business, Andy Lewin and Tom Litjen, are listed as sponsoring a March 21 fundraiser held for Vargas at the Hotel George in Washington, according to an invitation posted online by the Sunlight Foundation's PoliticalPartyTime.org.

Lewin is a principal in the Podesta Group, run by Tony Podesta, one of Washington's ultimate Democratic insiders.

Among other high profile clients the firm has handled public and political relations for is BP, during and after the giant multinational oil company's well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico.

"Whether the goal is to make some noise and raise an organization’s visibility or to affect policy change, we employ inventive strategies that set us apart and help change outcomes," says the Podesta Group's website.

According to the Washington Post, "Podesta is known for his ability to bring in large 'bundled' donations, contributing $394,000 total in the 2008 campaign cycle.

"He personally donated $84,750 to Democratic campaigns and committees in 2010, with $50,000 going to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Commitee. Podesta also bundled $78,400 for Sens. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and $41,000 for Patty Murray (D-Wash.)."

Litjen is vice president for Federal Government Relations at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, a Podesta Group client, according to the Sunlight Foundation's InfluenceExplorer.com.

As we've reported here in the past, Vargas is a longstanding friend of the insurance industry.

The invitation listed "Contribution Levels" to last week's event as $1,500 for "Host," $1,000 to "Sponsor," and $500 for "Guest."

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