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It's a Party at Political Conventions

POSTED: 03:55 PM ET, 08/25/2008 by Derek Kravitz

Politics and partying often go hand in hand. And at the upcoming national political conventions, the amount of fun and frivolity afforded to lawmakers and staffers, or lack thereof, is being as closely watched as ever.

The Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit political accountability group, estimates there will be at least 370 parties thrown at the two political conventions in Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul. Last month, the foundation launched "Party Time" to track the hobnobbing of lawmakers and their friends.

As this year's conventions get underway (with musical appearances in Denver expected by the likes of Willie Nelson, Tony Bennet and Kanye West), much attention is being paid to who is paying for what under strict new ethics rules adopted by Congressional leaders in 2007.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, the new rules won't likely do much to tone down the extravagant parties at the convention. Those rules, meant to remove the power influence between lobbyists and lawmakers at national political events, include exemptions for charitable fundraisers and "widely-attended" events, where more than 25 attendees cannot be Congress members or their staff and lawmakers must be performing some official duties.

Nevertheless, The New York Times reports that lawmakers will still encounter "bare-bones receptions where food eaten with forks has given way to finger food, where chairs have been removed and where meatballs may be served but not something heartier, like a hamburger."

(The Las Vegas Sun has an amusing illustration to detail the much-discussed finger food, or "toothpick," rule.)

In addition to scaled-back buffets, the Times notes, corporate-sponsored concerts that used to be free now have a price tag. Attendees at the Republican National Convention will be asked to shell out $25 to see the Beach Boys perform.

Still, corporate giving will remain on full display at the political conventions, organizers say. One four-star chef, Kevin Taylor of the Denver restaurant Palette, told ABC News that he is preparing a host of expensive goodies for convention-goers, including his signature King Crab terrine appetizer with white champagne caviar, at more than 100 "high end, hush-hush events."

"The demand is over the top, you've never seen anything like this," Taylor told ABC News.

By Derek Kravitz |  August 25, 2008; 3:55 PM ET
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