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DNC '08: It's Not My Party 

And I'll stay home if I want to

Wednesday, Aug 20 2008
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I do have a platinum American Express card, but I don’t have a Democratic Convention Premier Package. So I don’t think I’ll be going to the DNC’s big bash in Denver next week.

The former costs me $300 a year and is well worth it. The latter, which is being furiously peddled among corporate big dogs, points up everything that’s rotten about the American political system. And that includes the Democratic Party.

Premier Package donors get a room at a Denver hotel, two credentials for the convention hall, two tickets to a party honoring the House Democratic leadership, two tickets to a VIP presidential election briefing, two tickets to a congressional “late-night” event — but only one ticket to a private party honoring that nice lady who fights for us regular folks 24/7, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House. Premier Package cost: a mere $155,000.

Sure, even without a Premier membership, I could easily get to Denver on my own nickel or on that of various news organizations. But for the first time in more than two decades, I’ve opted to watch a major-party convention on TV. Here are my top three reasons for boycotting:

With 20 gazillion reporters and bloggers already enlisted, I don’t think I’d have much to add.

Second, whatever news will come out of this stage-managed affair will be focused on the Great National Baby Boomer Pseudofeminist Crybaby Me First Even Though I Lost Catharsis to be staged by Hillary Clinton and her supporters. No thanks.

But mostly, I’m staying away precisely because this year’s Democratic nominee is by far the most attractive since I started convention-going in the Reagan-Mondale era and, frankly, I don’t want to be reminded of what kind of fellow-Democrat company he keeps. Obama might be my candidate, but the Democrats are certainly not my party.

The liberal think tanks, the unions, the usual-suspect progressives are all going to be in a lathered frenzy of panels, presentations, talks and seminars foaming in and around the convention center, and convincing themselves they are now somehow driving the party. They might as well be scheduled for Sunday night on Mars.

The real power behind the Democrats are the nearly 60 corporations that are coughing up the bulk of the $55 million Denver tab, scooping up in the transaction much more than Premier Packages and martinis and shrimp with Speaker Nancy.

The most powerful economic and political forces in America are blatantly buying even more political access and influence. And the Democrats are only too happy to sell it. Giving unlimited bucks to so-called “convention host committees” is the Grand Canyon of campaign finance loopholes, with many donations not even having to be reported until a few days before the November election.

There’s insufficient space to parse through the entire list of DNC ’08 corporate sponsors. But next week, while you’re watching some Dem or another rail from the podium about the sinister influence of lobbyists and special interests, you might want to keep handy this minilist of convention sponsors and a few of the issues on which they’ve been lobbying. With thanks to the Rocky Mountain News and the Center for Responsive Politics, here’s just a smidge:

. AT&T, Qwest, Comcast, Motorola: revisions in the 1996 Telecom Act, wireless, digital TV and broadband regulation, tax policy, pension reform and FISA. AT&T was among the primary beneficiaries of the bill providing immunity against prosecution for domestic spying, approved only with Democratic support. Denver-based Qwest, which has given at least $6 million in convention funding, has been at the center of massive corporate criminal scandal with former CEO Joe Nacchio (previously an exec for AT&T) sentenced exactly a year ago to six years in prison and a $52 million fine for multiple felony counts of insider trading. No word yet if he will be paroled for a day or two to attend the Pelosi reception.

. Medtronic, Lilly, AstraZeneca, Merck, UnitedHealth Group: health-care policy, Medicare, drug prices and drug-importation policy, tax policy, pension reform, tort reform.

. US Bank, Wells Fargo, State Farm, Allstate, Visa: consumer protection against credit-card-company abuse, bankruptcy policy, mortgage relief, tax policy and financial institution bailouts.

Add to the list Lockheed Martin, which wants more contracts for defense and for its border security installations; Coca-Cola, which wants to water down regulation of junk food in schools; Xcel Energy and Ford, which are concerned about climate change (though in a different way than we are); and Molson Coors, which wants to loosen alcohol advertising regulation and make sure that taxes remain regressive. And then there’s the Recording Industry Association of America — the forward-looking folks who brought you prosecution of kids using Napster.

One can argue that this is simply the way of the world and that the Republicans are even worse. The second assertion is true. Yet nowhere is it written that the Democrats are somehow forced or obligated to do business this way. Indeed, they choose this form of legalized bribery because they are, in fact, representatives and allies of their donors. It could be different if there were sufficient reason and will.

This week, Barack Obama’s campaign crossed the record-smashing threshold of garnering donations from more than 2 million individuals. If each of those donors had been asked for a mere three additional bucks to fund the convention, the Democrats could have astounded us all by banning its corporate underwriting. But that would have meant the Dems would be accountable to a mass of small donors and not to a few dozen special interests. And that would hardly be the Democratic Party we know.

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