What can $50,000 get you these days? If you’re wanting to get access to lawmakers at the Republican National Convention, not much. That amount of dough is worth only a Viking Sponsorship, which gives a wealthy corporate donor limited access to the major goings-on with credentialed tickets to convention sessions, invitations to all 2008 host committee leadership events, and a sponsorship listing in official guide books. At the Democratic National Convention, $52,800 gets you roughly the equivalent, with a few bags emblazoned with your company’s logo thrown in for good measure. But if you want to really get to the heavyweights, you have to pony up at least 100 grand.
For the upcoming RNC, corporate giants like Cargill, UnitedHealth, U.S. Bank, and Wells Fargo — companies whose profits have increased generously on the heels of lax laws that have hurt consumers — are willing to shell out a few hundred grand and then some for RNC sponsorships and golden tickets to schmooze with lawmakers. It’s this proliferation of big-time corporate sponsors, all of whom are donating anywhere from $50,000 to $5 million to the RNC for that privilege, that has the consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen calling for Congress to shore up the loopholes in federal election laws and congressional ethics rules that have allowed corporations to contribute more than a combined $112 million to the RNC and DNC this year.
The soft-money sponsorships and lavish parties are a way for corporations to evade FEC rules by making unlimited contributions to the “host committee” instead of directly to a candidate. In exchange, they get the velvet rope lifted for an opportunity to mingle and plead with Washington bigwigs during what is supposed to be a publicly financed event. So who are the corporations wining and dining the Republican Party lawmakers in hopes of future reimbursements? Here’s a list of sponsorship levels (via Public Citizen) and major RNC corporate-sponsored shindigs:
• Viking sponsor. For $50,000 or more, the donor receives credentialed tickets to convention sessions, invitations to all 2008 host committee leadership events, and is listed as a sponsor in official guide books and on the 2008 website.
• Bronze Sponsor. For $100,000, donors get the same perks as Viking Sponsors with additional access to “premier” Minneapolis/St. Paul venues for “corporate hospitality” events and to the Xcel Center Hospitality Suite. Companies that attain this level of sponsorship, such as Land O’Lakes and Waste Management, may also opt to sponsor volunteer uniforms and water bottles.
• Silver Sponsor. For $250,000, donors such as Cargill, Eli Lily, Koch, and Wells Fargo gain “special access” to all host committee parties and events and to the Host Committee Suite at the Convention Center. Their status as a Silver Sponsor also qualifies these companies to be the exclusive official provider of a particular service to the convention.
• Gold Sponsor. For $500,000, donors gain the added perk of participation in tours of the convention spaces and cities during “Get to Know Minneapolis/St. Paul Days.”
• Platinum Sponsor. For $1 million, donors such as Xcel, UnitedHealth, Medtronic, St. Jude Medical, and US Bank, win VIP access to the Xcel Center. Originally, Platinum Sponsors were also promised a private reception with Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Sen. Norm Coleman, and the mayors of St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Bloomington. This perk was removed from the publicized packet after a number of critical articles appeared in both local and national press.
• Finance Vice-Chair. For $2.5 million, donors were also promised a golfing outing with Republican leadership, another bonus that was met with public outrage and subsequently dropped from the publicized packet.
• Finance Co-Chair. For $5 million, donors such as Qwest gain exclusive VIP access to the host committee media party and VIP tours of the Twin Cities.
The parties, via the Sunlight Foundation, so far include a “Young Guns” reception hosted by AT&T, a party called “Building Stable Communities” hosted by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and a performance by Mike Huckabee’s band at the Mill City Museum. Here are a few of the highlights:
“Red Rhythm and Rimes” Late Night with Leann Rimes & The Bellamy Brothers: Keeping Florida a RED State
Luncheon: Affordable Housing at Boat Club, hosted by National Association of Realtors
After Hours Hospitality at Club Car Train, hosted by Patron Express
Reception: Bank of America Goes Green at University Club Penthouse
Building Stable Communities for America’s Future at Graves Hotel, hosted by NAHB Fannie Mae-Freddie Mac Realtors
Party with music by Styx, hosted by Food and Ag Industry Minnesota Agri-Growth Council
Mississippi Rising: Gov. Haley Barbour Hosts Fellow Republican Governors & MS Elected Officials at Epic, hosted by National Mining Association American Gas Association Haley and Friends American Petroleum Institute Gov. Haley Barbour
Hospitality Space at McGovern’s Tavern, hosted by Citi Honeywell Anheuser-Busch
The One Campaign & RIAA featuring “A-list musical guest” at Epic, hosted by the Recording Industry of America AT&T
A Toast to Travel, Hospitality and Real Estate Across America at Carlson Hangar, Holman Field, St. Paul Airport; hosted by National Real Estate Organizations, American Hotel & Lodging Assoc., Distilled Spirits Council, DLA Piper, NAREIT National Business Travel Assoc., Printing Industries of America
AT&T Reception Honoring OH Delegates at Brit’s Pub
Daimler Honors AL, NC, SC Delegates at Windows on Minnesota, The Marquette Hotel / IDS Center, hosted by Daimler
Creative Coalition Gala Concert featuring celebrity guests and the Charlie Daniels Band at The Depot, hosted by Target