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Lobbyists to party up convention VIPs

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Kai Ryssdal: You can usually count on August to be a slow month news-wise. Not this year, of course, between the Russians invading Georgia and the Olympics in Beijing, there’s plenty going on. Things won’t slow down next week, either. The Democratic National Convention kicks off in Denver on Monday. For those who’re still looking to book a restaurant, bar or a ballroom, good luck. Despite all the hoopla over ethics reforms in Congress last year, everybody from AT&T to the Poker Player’s Alliance are going to be throwing VIP parties, both for the Democrats in Denver and the Republicans next month in Minneapolis. Marketplace’s Jeremy Hobson has more.

Jeremy Hobson: If you’ve ever been to a political convention, you know it’s much easier to get tickets to this:

Voice of John Kerry at the 2004 Convention: I’m John Kerry and I’m reporting for duty.

Than it is to get tickets to this…

KC & the Sunshine Band singing: Do a little dance… make a little love… get down tonight…

The parties — they rival any fancy wedding. I got into one four years ago that sported a bar made of ice. And business for the ice bar maker is probably hot again, considering the 400 lavish parties on tap for the conventions this year. All this despite Congress’s new ethics rules, says Massie Ritsch with the Center for Responsive Politics.

Massie Ritsch: The interests sponsoring these conventions are not there because they love Denver and they love Minneapolis and they can’t wait to show it off. They’re there because hundreds of members of Congress and other decision makers will be in these places for four or five days and they’ll have access to them.

They’ll have that access this time because of loopholes in the new ethics guidelines. If proceeds from the party go to charity, then it’s OK to party on. If official business is on the agenda, like maybe a talk on Darfur, that’s fine. Or if the event is widely attended, meaning it’s 25 people more than just lawmakers and staff, bring it on.

Ritsch: The party planners have been working very closely with the lawyers to make sure that everyone is complying with the rules.

As for Massie Ritsch, he’ll be at both conventions, but so far, no party invitations for him.

In Washington, I’m Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

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