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The invasion has begun. And it has brought with it a decidedly yee-haw spirit. The GOP has taken over Manhattan for the week, and if Washington’s lawyers and lobbyists have anything to do with it — and they most certainly do — the week promises to be one long party with top country-western musicians like Travis Tritt headlining corporate events at venues such as the historic Hammerstein Ballroom. So if your idea of fun is line dancing in a room packed with 1,200 sweaty Republicans at 2 a.m., New York is the place to be. “I’d rather be in Maine,” quips Ronald Kaufman, senior managing partner of the Dutko Group, a D.C. lobby shop. Kaufman, though, is planning to wear several hats this week in New York. As the Republican National Committee man from Massachusetts, Kaufman is serving as a delegate from his home state. He is also on the convention’s Rules Committee, which took him to New York a few days early for meetings. Not to mention, he’ll attend receptions, parties, and hoedowns. “We’re helping with some big parties and with small dinner parties,” Kaufman says. “I’m going to try to make it as much fun as possible.” Same for former Rep. Tillie Fowler (R-Fla.), a partner at Holland & Knight. Fowler was appointed by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) as a delegate-at-large, so she says she’s looking most forward to casting her vote to “renominate George W. Bush. He’s been a great president these four years, and I’m happy to be part of the process to move him forward for the next four years.” Party planners and lobbyists alike say the outside-the-Garden events cost anywhere from the low hundred thousands to more than a million dollars. Hot tickets include the nightly Warehouse and Texas Nights parties as well as a Recording Industry Association of America concert honoring House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) with performers Kid Rock and Trace Adkins. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld’s William Paxon, a one-time GOP representative from New York, and his wife, former Rep. Susan Molinari (R-N.Y.), chief executive of the Washington Group, are looking forward to showing off their home state to fellow Republicans. The convention, Paxon says, “will showcase a great state and great leaders like Rudy Giuliani and George Pataki, and we’re going to renominate a great president.” Not all D.C.-based lobbyists are going for W., though. Venable partner Michael Ferrell, chairman of the firm’s legislative practice, has a Democratic background, but that’s not keeping him from spending the week in New York. “It’s a matter of just being seen,” says Ferrell, whose recent clients include the National American Indian Council and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists. “If I were a door-to-door salesman and only knocked on red doors, I wouldn’t be very successful. You’re representing your clients, regardless of partisanship.” Ferrell says several of the firm’s clients will be in New York and, he notes, the key to a successful convention is “to be flexible and take opportunities when they present themselves. You want to build in some free time, if there’s an opportunity to have a discussion with an existing client or a potential client.” But Ferrell cautions, “don’t have too-high expectations” and “pace yourself. You don’t want to burn out on Night One.” Even some of the Republican faithful, though, don’t see conventions as a great business opportunity. “You’re either on the convention floor or you’re at a raucous party, and it is not conducive to saying, ‘Hey, can I talk to you about the asbestos bill?’ ” says Barnes & Thornburg lobbyist Jeffrey Taylor, who has worked GOP conventions past but is skipping this one. “ They’re too busy with the elephant hat and two beer cans.” Eric Kuwana, Patton Boggs’ firmwide head of business litigation, is in New York as a volunteer for the convention. His tasks, he says, might be making copies and doing whatever else is asked of him. He also coordinated his firm’s events, which include a “Wrap Party” on Thursday, the convention’s final night, at Avalon. The soiree — which includes such sponsors as CitiGroup, lobbying firm Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock, and the Miller Brewing Co. — will go until 3 a.m. Friday. “It’s a big, convention-ending party,” says Kuwana. “We’re honoring the convention staff who have worked so hard to put it together, the campaign staff, and the RNC staff. For many people, this will be the only party they will get to go to because they’ve been working. We’re expecting thousands of people.”

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