We take a look at the hundreds of company-sponsored parties that Republican delegates are attending during the GOP convention. Pratap Chatterjee of CorpWatch files a report. [includes rush transcript]
Some 5,000 Republican delegates and alternates as well as 15,000 journalists descended on New York City last weekend to attend the Party’s 2004 national convention. Corpwatch and Democracy Now! visited a few of the locations that the official delegations were staying at and tracked down some of the company sponsored parties.
- Pratap Chatterjee of CorpWatch has this report.
PRATAP CHATTERJEE: We are standing just outside the Four Season’s Hotel where The Pioneers and Rangers, George Bush and Dick Cheney elite fundraisers who raised $100,000 or more, will be staying this week. The hotel was kind enough to share with me the dinner menu. For just $70, can have a three course meal, ahi tuna, American lamb and chocolate. Or if you are cheap, can get a simple salad at $16. After the delegates checked in Sunday afternoon, many chose to attend a matinee on or off Broadway. The Republican Party bought 13,373 tickets for shows such as Aida, Phantom of the Opera and Bombay Dreams. We caught up at Conrad Pogorzelski, a delegate from North Carolina, on his way to theater.
CONRAD POGORZELSKI: We’re going to see a play now.
PRATAP CHATTERJEE: What play are you going to see and what else are you going to do in New York this week?
CONRAD POGORZELSKI: Fiddler on the Roof and a lot of the receptions throughout the week. They’re so numerous to tell about, but naturally, the convention starts at 8:00, and finishes at 11:00 each night, starting Monday through Thursday.
PRATAP CHATTERJEE: I hear there’s something like 200 parties that are happening. Are you going to check some of them out?
CONRAD POGORZELSKI: There’s probably even more than that. It’s overwhelming. We got a roster of things going on and it’s a lot of — it will be a lot of fun the next several days.
PRATAP CHATTERJEE: So, what parties are you most looking forward to?
CONRAD POGORZELSKI: That’s a good question. We have a delegation party sponsored by some of the businesses in North Carolina and we’ll be going to those parties and a lot others.
PRATAP CHATTERJEE: General Motors was the host of an event for House Speaker, Dennis Hastert of Illinois Sunday at the Tavern on the Green, which obligingly redecorated the Central Park restaurant by moving an elephant shaped bush to greet convention visitors at the front entrance. Burlington Norton-Standard Way Railroad Company, which stands to make a fortune on free trade with Mexico, has rented out the Central Park Boathouse. Many of the republicans see no harm in mixing a little business with pleasure. Gary Raucous, is a republican from Illinois.
GARY RAUCOUS: There’s no formal business going on. It’s just relationships. Hi, how are you? Good to see you, that type of a thing. I’m sure there’s a few cards that will exchanged here and there, but that’s what it’s all about, too.
PRATAP CHATTERJEE: I’m standing in front of the Rockefeller Center on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, a stone’s throw from expensive stores like Cartier and Saks Fifth Avenue. This week, companies from General Motors to Pfizer will be holding parties for republicans and their supporters who rounded up thousands of dollars to reelected George Bush and Dick Cheney in 2004. For example, on Wednesday, Pfizer will be throwing a party at the Rainbow Room at the Rockefeller Center. Every night, the American Gas Association will be holding a private party at Nochez on Broadway. Perhaps the most controversial location that the companies are renting out to entertain their friends on Capital Hill is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We asked some of the local artists near the museum what they thought of the Pepsi party. Clara Soriano is a local potter.
CLARA SORIANO: Why would they want the Pepsi Company to be sponsoring a party inside the museum? I think partially because they want to be favored by the republicans.
PRATAP CHATTERJEE: Miguel Medina is a mask maker.
MIGUEL MEDINA: A museum? They are not supposed to be using a museum for that. It’s a bunch of artists in the street. They’re really looking for a place to show their stuff to the public so they can appreciate it and see. And they are using museums for things like this for that? Don’t make no sense to me.
PRATAP CHATTERJEE: Barry Vreg is a tourist visiting from the Netherlands.
BARRY VREG: I don’t think it’s good. I think it brings entanglement between really showing the people the ancient Egypt art and politics, with which is really a different thing, I think.
PRATAP CHATTERJEE: But not everyone was opposed to the idea. Cassius King, a member of the group called the Billionaires for Bush thought it was an excellent plan.
CASSIUS KING: Corporations are people, too. I think they have as much a right to party as anybody else. Our man, Bush, is best man we can have for corporations because he has done so much for us.
THURSTON HOWELL IV : Thurston Howell IV, I live in New York, Paris, Tokyo, the Cayman’s and the Grand Bahamas.
PRATAP CHATTERJEE: What do you think about the fact that PepsiCo has rented part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to throw a party for the republicans?
THURSTON HOWELL IV : We don’t consider it renting really. More and more corporations are owning the place. It’s the first step towards complete privatization. Soon it will be the entire Central Park that will be corporate owned. That will be a great day.
PRATAP CHATTERJEE: For Democracy Now! and CorpWatch, I’m Pratap Chatterjee.