July 28th, 2016
NBC News investigator Ronan Farrow reports on a troubling trend at political conventions, including this week’s DNC in Philadelphia.
After the televised show that everyone sees, come the after-parties, where big businesses host exclusive events for politicians. There’s “plenty of free booze,” Farrow says, and it’s an opportunity for businesses and special interest groups to “rub elbows with your representatives.”
Farrow and his crew tried to get into a few different events but were denied access.
After being kicked out of one party, hosted by “Wall Street banks and a Fortune 500 company,” Farrow asks the hosts: “Why wouldn’t you want people to see it if it’s just another event like you said?”
Some young people, who acknowledged being Washington staffers, wouldn’t even tell him who they worked for.
Conventions used to be publicly funded, Farrow explains, but in 2014 Obama signed legislation that dismantled that system—and private funders stepped in. (Obama signed the bill only days after the Supreme Court removed important barriers on private donors’ campaign funding).
There are specific rules that companies have to follow when hosting events, like only serving hor d’oeuvres, not full meals. But those rules don’t always apply, and they didn’t seem to stop companies like T-Mobile, Continental, Comcast and other groups from throwing some ragers.
Though Farrow was barred from entering most of the events, he did make it into a concert featuring Joe Walsh of The Eagles, hosted by the Wall Street Journal and the Distilled Spirits Council. He spotted Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), as well as a bunch of chiefs of staff for other senators.
Lobbyists for the liquor industry told Farrow they are hoping the event helps them get lower taxes on their products; Senator Warner is on the senate finance committee that oversees tax laws.
Though these events are “far off most voters’ radars,” says Farrow, they’re prevalent at both Republican and Democratic conventions.
In the segment, Farrow asks Melissa Yeager of the watchdog group the Sunlight Foundation whether these kinds of events are legal.
Her answer is yes.
But is it ethical, he asks?
Her answer to that one is less clear-cut. And that’s unsurprising when relationships between businesses and US politicians—like Hillary Clinton’s VP pick Tim Kaine, the lucky recipient of gifts from wineries and pharma companies—routinely blur a lot of lines.