Political Party Time

Rudy, Tom DeLay and beyond

From what we could tell, the parties were on in Minneapolis tonight at the Republican National Convention. Sen. John McCain had made a pitch that events be turned into hurricane fundraisers. However, these appeared to be the same parties that would have occurred, hurricane or not--opportunities for corporate sponsors to schmooze with members of Congress and convention goers.

Our first stop was Norman's. Our cabbie had told us there was a party there for Rudy Giuliani. Sure enough, when we walked into the restaurant and up the stairs, we were told it was a private party for--Giuliani.

"Are members of Congress invited?" we asked.

"Oh yes," said the helpful young woman sitting behind a table piled high with nametags. Unfortunately she would not let us enter the party, nor would she allow us to take a photo of the big placard with the list of corporate sponsors for the party. We did catch Woodbridge, Opulent Liquors, and Anheueser Busch. We didn't notice any signs for hurricane relief.

From Norman's we walked a few blocks to Bellanotte, the restaurant that was the site for this party for the Republican Governors Association, where corporate donors had ponied up as much as $250,000 for a "Lake Minnetonka Package," $100,000 for a Lake Calhoun package, and so on. The main sponsors were the Edison Electric Institute and the Nuclear Energy Institute, the trade associations for the electric utility and nuclear industries. Alas we arrived too late--the party was over. No special note that we saw here either for hurricane relief.

The next stop was the Aqua Club, where there was a party for the Coalition for a Conservative Majority, an organization founded by former Rep. Tom Delay (R-TX) as a counterpoint to MoveOn.org on the left. Here there was a line stretching past a red velvet rope. Black SUVs drove by and deposited revelers. Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) was seen entering. Here again, no obvious sign of hurricane relief. And again, we didn't get in.

Imagine our surprise when we moved on to this party at Solera thrown by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, The Hill, The Times, Daimler, Amgen, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and others. A similar party had been thrown at the Democratic National Convention by the same list of sponsors. They let us in! We're not used to that type of treatment. Judging by the big check-in for media at the front door, this was not designed to be one of the more secretive parties.

Here a big pitch was made for fundraising for the Red Cross. In addition to a sign outside, inside we were asked to contribute to the hurricane victims. (And let the record note we did--$10. On reflection, we should have given more.)

And here were four floors full of partiers, mostly a young crowd. One patio was reserved for cigar smokers, of which there were many. We didn't recognize any members of Congress or lobbyists, but then again, that's not our strong suit. We did note that the food served was of the finger variety--veal meatballs, ham-and-cheese croquettes, shrimp and clams, sliced filet mignon, making the party eligible for the "toothpick" exception under the new ethics law. And there were extremely well stocked bars. (We had club soda.) It's interesting how the ethics law doesn't touch liquor.

That's our party report for tonight. Tune in tomorrow for more.