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2004-07-27

Party On in Boston: How Corporations Spend Thousands to Wine and Dine Legislators

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Multinational companies are throwing dozens of parties here in Boston this week for Democratic delegates, members of Congress, their staff and their wealthy supporters. We hear a report from CorpWatch on how companies spend thousands of dollars to entertain industry and political guests. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to one of the major features of both conventions, democratic and republican conventions, and those are the parties that take place. Every day. Every morning. Every noon and every night.

PRATAP CHATTERJEE: Career patron of John Kerry, the democratic nominee for president, is Time Warner, the world’s biggest media and entertainment company. This week the company spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a party at Tiers, a restaurant with spectacular views of the Boston harbor where special fireworks display entertained industry and political guests. The select 200 guests consumed frozen margueritas, lobster and coconut shrimp in slathered in orange chili glaze and danced the night away. The money spent on the party is small in comparison to the $2.3 million the company spent in 2003 on lobbying the men and women in power.

LORAIN FRANK: My name is Lorain Frank and I am from Arizona. Actually, this is the first time in 24 years that I have not been a delegate. And I am just here because I’m used to coming and so I’m here.

PRATAP CHATTERJEE: Why do you think Time Warner is sponsoring the party? Do they want to lobby?

LORAIN FRANK: No, I just think that all these big companies like to get in on the act and to be, you know, if you are looked on as friends, that’s a good thing. But I wouldn’t think it was as direct a thing as because they want to lobby here. No. Everything around here is sponsored by somebody.

GUEST: Why do I think they are throwing a party for politicians? I don’t know. Nobody, nobody told me that. Were they the ones throwing the party? Oh, ok. I honestly don’t know.

JASON STEINBAUM: My name is Jason Steinbaum. I work for Congressman Eliot Engel, a democrat from New York. He represents parts of New York City, the Bronx and Westchester and Rockland County. This was a party sponsored by time Warner. It’s the late-night party; this is after we attended several others. I have been to three, four, five others tonight. Those of us who attend these functions are very appreciative to the sponsoring organization, be they companies or trade associations or other types of—other types of groups. So we are very appreciative. I work with some of the folks in Time Warner on issues that are before the committee that my boss serves on and this gives us a chance to get to know each other behind the scenes.

You know first of all access is not, there’s nothing wrong with access. It’s when you are seeking to influence in an inappropriate way, the activity, I do not believe that most—most—of the members of congress are—can be influenced by who sponsors an event. I have been around enough in a very long time to know that that is not the way the world works.

My boss serves on a committee called Energy and Commerce and the subcommittees on telecommunications an the internet and the subcommittee on health. So you saw me today at an event dealing with physicians and at an event dealing with a telecommunications company. And my boss is also on the International Relations Committee and you saw me at an event dealing with some organizations that deal with some foreign policy, which would be the American Israel Public Affairs committee. If the question is does a company like Time Warner have more impact than your constituents, the answer is easily, no. But we welcome them. They are a company that has a presence in Washington and we welcome them in their office. They have, and they supply cable television, for example, to millions of consumers. Those consumers are going to want their cable provided and provided at a good price and that dialogue begins in many ways on Capitol Hill.

PRATAP CHATTERJEE: For Democracy Now!, I’m Pratap Chatterjee with Sakura Saunders in Boston.

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