New ethics rules get St. Paul tryout

The Republican Governors Association (RGA) offers its donors the chance to meet with governors and other officials at parties, receptions and hospitality suites. For donations from $30,000 to $125,000 per night, companies can sponsor the group's skybox at the Xcel Energy Center.

"The skybox will be complete with food and beverages and Republican governors, senior staff and additional Republican VIPs will be invited," the RGA says in its brochure.

"We have the opportunity for them to come and talk policy, but we also have the opportunity to come and have a very good time," RGA spokesman Chris Schrimpf says. "It's the perfect opportunity for donors."

Drug company Pfizer is sponsoring parties at both conventions. Pfizer's presence allows its leaders to discuss health care with "key stakeholders" and "to ensure our company positions on this and other policy priorities are well-represented," spokesman Christopher Loder said in an e-mail.

The ethics rules, which ban members of Congress from accepting gifts and meals from lobbyists, have put a damper on some of the partying.

The trade group for beer wholesalers provided beer or money to sponsor nine parties at the 2004 GOP convention in New York. This year, the National Beer Wholesalers Association did not want to be the sole sponsor for any events at either political convention, said Rebecca Spicer, the group's spokeswoman. "The change in ethics rules is one of the factors we considered when deciding how to participate in the conventions," she said.

Even Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), a watchdog group, is sponsoring a convention event. Through its lobbying arm, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, the group is hosting a night at the Liffey, an Irish-themed bar across from the convention site.

"We are having a cocktail reception fully compliant with the ethics rules, toothpicks and all," CAGW President Tom Schatz says. "It's really meant to highlight the issue of wasteful spending and taxes to make sure that subject is something that people will discuss during the course of the convention."

The Price of Power is an ongoing series tracking the role of money in politics

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