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K Street Preps for Holiday Party Scene

Party organizers seek to provide features or food selections that will make their event a little different from the one down the street. At the Quinn Gillespie soirée, guests will be able to cozy up to a bar that serves mashed potatoes scooped into martini glasses ready to be embellished with various toppings.

“I am a mashed potato freak,” Dornic said.

Communications firm FD is also getting into the spirit of the season, throwing its first holiday party at Wolfgang Puck’s The Source restaurant.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to bring friends and clients together,” said Stacey Morton Bowlin, FD’s senior vice president. The menu for the event includes Kobe beef burgers, tuna tartar, a dumpling station and a sushi display.

The Recording Industry Association of America hopes to get people out of their downtown offices by again hosting its party at a well-known music venue: the 9:30 Club, a spokeswoman said. The group has also held events at the club in past years.

Bah, Humbug?

But some firms and associations have dramatically scaled back their parties, mindful that flashy events may not look good to their clients and membership when unemployment is high. The bigger parties, which draw hundreds of people, can cost between $50,000 and $100,000, say those who plan such events.

The American Trucking Associations had a reputation in past years for throwing extravagant holiday fêtes. No longer, spokesman Brandon Borgna said.

“Given the economic conditions, we are more conservative in our celebrating,” he said.
Borgna added that the holiday party is now an in-house event just for employees.

“It’s a quaint get-together at our headquarters,” he said.

The Podesta Group, led by Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta, doesn’t partake in the holiday ritual at all.

“We have never included holiday parties as part of our marketing strategy,” Podesta spokeswoman Missi Tessier said.

Banning Santa

Others have adjusted to the new ethics environment by shedding popular customs. Soon after the new rules came out in 2007, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce exiled Santa, who had posed for pictures with party-goers in years past. The chamber was worried that the photos of guests on Santa’s lap could be considered a gift of value and banned by the rules.

Tita Freeman, a chamber spokeswoman, said her group sent Santa packing not only because of the ethics rules, but also “because we were taking a fresh approach.”

She said the chamber’s party on Dec. 9 would be similar to last year with hundreds of guests.

“It is a very popular party,” she said. “We do invite Members and their staff, and it’s up to them whether or not to attend.” Freeman added that the menu and food service follow the ethics rules.

Other firms embrace less conventional ways to mark the season.

“We are doing cards and nice tchotchkes for our clients,” said Robert Raben, a principal in the Raben Group. Raben said his firm has thrown parties episodically over the years — but they are tied to holidays such as Three Kings Day, which occurs 12 days after Christmas.

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