The Los Angeles Times notes today that “the practice of corporations and unions making big convention donations has a long tradition and is criticized by groups that want to limit the role of money in politics.” While both the Democratic and Republican party conventions feature lavish corporate-sponsored receptions, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) — the host of the Republican convention — is making an explicit pitch to corporate CEOs that he’s willing to sell access:
On the GOP side, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s written “talking points” at a fundraising luncheon for corporate CEOs promised “contact with influential government officials (Cabinet, President, next President)” during the convention in St. Paul.
“This is a real problem,” said Mr. [Stephen] Weissman [of the Campaign Finance Institute]. “It’s access, with gratitude.”
Many corporations are willing to buy the access to John McCain, in exchange for the “gratitude” McCain is promising them in the future. McCain’s tax plan gives America’s 200 largest corporations $45 billion in tax breaks, including $4 billion to the top five oil companies and $2 billion to the top 10 health insurance companies.
The Dallas Morning News reports that the GOP convention is offering “golfing with the Republican leadership.” Roll Call reports that Democratic and Republican lobbyists are taking a turn “at the time-honored tradition of volunteering at the national conventions.” For John McCain, who frequently complains that “there are too many lobbyists,” his convention is creating awkward challenges:
One Republican lobbyist, who is headed to Minneapolis/St. Paul to volunteer, would speak about his role only under the condition of anonymity. “I’ve heard that McCain doesn’t like reading in print about lobbyists who are helping,” said this K Streeter, who plans to help with advance work in the Twin Cities.
The anonymous GOP official shouldn’t be so sensitive. After all, there are at least 159 lobbyists running the McCain campaign, fundraising, and shaping his policies. And at least 20 McCain staffers came “from a lobby shop or joined one after leaving the congressional payroll.”
The Sunlight Foundation is tracking the parties at both the Republican and Democratic conventions.