Party Time '08: Who Can and Cannot Dance in Denver
UPDATED, 8:44 p.m. ET: House members and their staff better have plenty of cash with them here at the convention. The Sleuth has just learned they'll have to pay beaucoup bucks if they still want to see hip-hop king Kanye West's live concert on Wednesday at a late-night bash co-sponsored by the ONE Campaign and the Recording Industry Association of America.
Just as they had to pay to attend last night's party in honor of the Blue Dog Coalition featuring KT Tunstall, House members and aides will have to pull out their wallets or checkbooks on Wednesday at the RIAA hot-ticket bash. And while they only had to pay $22 to see Tunstall, they'll have to pony up $90 to party with Kanye.
While the Senate ethics panel has given approval for senators and Senate staff to attend the event, the House ethics committee took a stricter approach. The party apparently doesn't meet the House ethics rules' "widely attended event" exception.
Members are allowed to attend "widely attended events" that are relevant to their official capacity. But the House ethics committee apparently views the RIAA's Kanye West show -- despite serious efforts by the poverty-fighting ONE Campaign to insert policy into the event -- as just a concert.
RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy confirmed the $90 price of admission and said the RIAA has alerted House and Senate members and staff of their respective ethics committees decisions.
Free love is one thing. But free fun at the convention here in Denver is harder to come by -- for House members and their staffs that is.
Due to strict new gift rules, members of the Blue Dog Coalition of conservative House Democrats had to pay to attend their own party Sunday night. While everyone else walked in for free to the Blue Night in Denver bash to enjoy loads of free booze and a live show by pop rocker KT Tunstall, House members -- and House aides -- had to pay what sources described as fair market value: $22. (Which, by our estimation, is a cheap KT Tunstall show.)
Most of the members, who included Rep. Allen Boyd of Florida, Melissa Bean of Illinois, and John Tanner of Tennessee, wrote checks so they had proof of payment.
For everyone else who attended the Blue Night in Denver bash, including Senators (though we saw none there) and Senate staff, the price of admission was just having a good time.
The Senate ethics committee is taking a looser approach to convention parties. But the House ethics rules prohibit members from attending big-name entertainment events for free. "Name act entertainment is not being allowed by the House ethics committee unless House members and staff pay for it," says Rob Walker, a private attorney who until recently served as chief counsel to both the House and Senate ethics panels.
Besides worrying about big-name entertainment exceeding the gift limits, the House ethics committee is also apparently concerned about -- no joke -- dancing.
Lawyers involved in vetting ethics rules for parties being thrown in Denver and St. Paul say the House ethics committee has expressed reservations about whether dancing at a party would be allowed. There were plenty of people dancing at the Blue Dog party after Tunstall's live performance ended but come to think of it -- we didn't see any members of Congress cutting a rug. Maybe they had been warned.
Bill McGinley, a lawyer with Patton Boggs, which is hosting receptions at both political conventions, says the nebulous nature of the ethics rules is becoming comical. "This is almost like 'Footloose.' Under the new ethics rules, do you have permission to dance?"
Partygoers are now wondering: will House members and aides have to pay to attend Wednesday night's Kanye West performance at an event co-sponsored by the Recording Industry Association of America and the ONE Campaign? (Something tells us those tickets might be higher than $22.)
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