For Lobbyists, Big Spending Means Big Presence
"Thanks to a loophole in campaign finance laws, a presidential convention is the one place where corporations and labor unions can still spend with abandon to influence holders of high office. Lobbyist-paid festivities are nothing new during presidential conventions, of course. But this year they are more numerous and lavish than ever.
The possibility that Democrats might take back the White House or regain power in Congress has fueled all the lobbyists' partygoing. 'They're covering their bets,' says Larry Noble, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. 'Corporations are very pragmatic; they are always counting on the possibility of change.'
What's more, the lobbying community has not held back when Democrats have asked for funds. Fifteen corporations, unions and foundations have each given at least $1 million to the Boston host committee, including Bank of America Corp., International Business Machines Corp., Gillette Co., Verizon Communications Inc. and the Service Employees International Union. Another 15 have given from $500,000 to $1 million. In 1992, the Democrats did not accept more than $100,000 from any single donor.
Even ardent proponents of tough regulation of campaign contributions tend to jettison their qualms when they get to conventions.
On Monday, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) emerged from a $19,000 Union Oyster House luncheon given in his honor by the Chicago Board Options Exchange, the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to say accepting the gift was "totally consistent" with his stand on campaign finance. "
I've never attended a $19,000 luncheon given in my honor. Actually I've never had a luncheon given in my honor. I'm in the wrong profession.