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K Street Wrestles With Conventions

“We have lots of people asking about it and looking at their options, but I don’t know that many have finalized their plans,” Minor said in an interview. “They are considering ways to do it differently.”
Rather than hosting an event directly, many organizations will buy sponsorships for think-tank or charity events, he added.

But don’t expect former Rep. Cal Dooley (D-Calif.) to attend the conventions as a partyer-in-chief. Now the head of the American Chemistry Council, Dooley, whose group recently kicked off an energy-focused lobbying campaign, said the ACC isn’t interested in convention parties.

“Having attended a lot of the conventions in my past life, we made a determination that it’s not a venue that provides us with the most effective opportunity to deliver what is a more policy-oriented agenda,” he explained.

Often considered the life of the party, the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America also plans to be a wallflower this year. “We’ve learned our lessons in the past,” spokesman Jerry Brown said. “Putting those things on in the past have attracted too much attention.”

Four years ago, the House Ethics panel deemed the Recording Industry Association of America’s event not within the exemptions; therefore, House Members and aides were required to pay for their tickets.

But that isn’t deterring the RIAA from events this year. Cara Duckworth Weiblinger, a spokeswoman for the group, said RIAA and the Auto Alliance are presenting sponsors for charity events in both cities that will benefit Musicians on Call. They are working now to secure the talent. (Past headliners have include Kanye West.)

The city’s biggest lobbying practice also plans to get in on the celebrating. Patton Boggs’ Nick Allard said his shop is looking to do something in both cities. “We expect to have some events, to be determined, and they probably will have appropriate themes like celebrating the 50th anniversary of the firm or our former partner, [the late Commerce] Secretary Ron Brown’s legacy,” Allard said.

While some groups might shy away from the conventions, visibility is just what Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, is hoping for.

“We are going to be having a hell of a lot of fun, I suspect,” he said, noting that the conventions “bring together a critical mass of policymakers.”

His group plans to do small meet and greets and is considering co-hosting widely attended events, too. “We think it’s important to be there,” Shay said.

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