All this week the media's critical eye will be trained on the Democratic National Convention, Sen. Barack Obama and his newly minted running mate Sen. Joe Biden as they make their case for the White House. Today that means a raft of stories dissecting the role that corporate money and the ever-present big donors play in this multi-day spectacle.
While the new ethics rule passed in the 110th Congress have attempted to sew up a few loopholes by which industry cash slips into candidate coffers they've yet to eliminate the need for the Democratic and Republican parties alike to seek out corporate funding for their conventions. While legislators must observe a few regulations (no parties at the conventions that honor a particular legislator; finger food only) there's still a huge opportunity for companies and wealthy individuals alike to lay out big money for a few moments of a lawmaker's time.
That means legislators who head back to work to debate telecom rights and prescription drug prices will be doing so having attended lavish parties put on by AT&T and Pfizer. And lobbyists have been sure to buy up their tickets for the best show in town. From the Dallas Morning News:
"It's a bigger than the Super Bowl," said Texas lobbyist Ben Barnes, a convention veteran who'll be in one of the boxes on Thursday's final, historic night.
He'll be in good company. Xcel Energy, Pfizer and Molson Coors, which each have given more than $1 million, will be among scores of deep-pocket donors with their own private luxury suites. Home of the Denver Broncos, the football stadium's 131 skyboxes, seating 14 to 20 people, are mostly going to the party's biggest backers and political VIPs.
What does it say when events that are supposed to be about bringing the whole political party together become stratified along wealth lines, with the best seats under the big tent still reserved for the deepest pockets?