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Special interest, secret parties dominate Republican National Convention agendas

4:10 PM, Aug 28, 2012   |    comments
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TAMPA, Fla. - Congress wrote laws to prohibit wining and dining of legislators, but according to a Washington D.C. watchdog group, they are ineffective in combating convention influence-peddling.

"Conventions give (corporations) an opportunity to throw money at the feet of members of Congress," said Craig Holman with Public Citizen. "These are businesses that have business before the federal government and they want something from the federal government."

Among the private parties reportedly scheduled for Tampa are events hosted by the NRA, Anheuser-Busch, TECO, Duke Energy, the Natural Gas Alliance, Exxon, as well as countless Super PACs.  The DNC in Charlotte is expected to draw a similar number of private parties.

READ: Lists of parties from Sunlight Foundation, SaintPetersblog, The Hill

While a number of early-week events were canceled due to weather, Greater Tampa Bay still saw dozens of corporate-sponsored events take place Sunday and Monday.

There are also major fundraisers taking place, like Nuestra Noche, a late-night speakeasy event at Ybor City's Cuban Club.  Deep pocketed-donors can secure face time with hosts that include Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.
UPDATE: Organizers of Nuestra Noche say the event was not a "fundraiser" and weather/scheduling issues prohibited co-host Jeb Bush from attending the event.

"When you can sit a member of Congress down and shower them with gifts and buy them meals," Holman said, "that member becomes indebted."

Even the region's nonprofit convention-hosting agency, the Tampa 2012 Host Committee, offers up exclusive access to corporations and individuals who make large donations.

Host Committee CEO Ken Jones has repeated that donors' names won't be released until federally required in October, but following the 2008 conventions, FEC filings revealed more than a dozen corporations donated more than a million dollars in St. Paul and/or Denver.  Access to candidates was provided in some cases.

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