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The lobbying battles of Capitol Hill have spilled over to the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. Outside the purview of television cameras and federal disclosure laws, companies in areas including defense, energy, tobacco, mortgage finance, and telecommunications are vying for attention by underwriting lavish parties for influential members with sway over issues worth billions to them. While many companies donate to the convention Host Committee, they are spending even more money on private parties for individual lawmakers. Among the most popular honorees this week are members of the GOP leadership, including Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert of Illinois, Senate Whip Don Nickles of Oklahoma, and House Whip Tom DeLay of Texas. Powerful chairmen — such as Texas Rep. Bill Archer, who heads the Ways and Means Committee, and Virginia Sen. John Warner, who runs the Armed Services Committee — are also at the top of the list. The companies bankrolling parties for lawmakers are a diverse lot. For instance, the Lockheed Martin Corp., the United States Tobacco Co., the AT&T Corp., Freddie Mac, and the Southern Co. have each kicked in $60,000 to underwrite a 1950s-style sock hop being thrown by Lott. Another contributor to the event is the Philip Morris Cos. Lott is “in the leadership, and we want to have a relationship with him,” says company spokeswoman Peggy Roberts. “There will be issues that come up during the next four years that will have an impact on our food, beer, and tobacco businesses. We are looking to build some relationships with officials, so when the time comes we will be able to find some common ground.” Of the nearly two dozen companies contacted for this article, all emphasized that they are not planning to directly lobby at the convention. Instead, they say, the week of parties surrounding the convention will provide opportunities for “relationship-building” with key legislators. The parties being held by Reps. Billy Tauzin, R-La., and Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, are particularly popular with the energy crowd. The two members are competing for the chairmanship of the Commerce Committee, which is considering legislation to deregulate the power industry. The cost for a company seeking to be listed as a top benefactor is high — $75,000 for Oxley’s party, $25,000 for Tauzin’s. The Edison Electric Institute, the trade association for private utilities, and the Southern Co., the nation’s largest utility holding company, have ponied up. The Southern Co. is also funding the Lott sock hop, featuring such talent as Frankie Valli and Dick Clark, and a party for Senate Whip Nickles, to be headlined by country superstar Wynonna Judd at the Hard Rock Cafe. “It is a way for us as a company to build stronger relationships with our national representatives,” says Southern Co. spokesman Buddy Elder. Three lobbyists for other companies participating in both events say the price tag for the top sponsors of the Lott event was $60,000, while the Nickles event drew $25,000 from top donors. Neither of the senators’ offices would confirm these amounts. At least one energy concern, however, is funding a less raucous event. Southern California Edison, one of the largest utilities in the country, is sponsoring a “prayer breakfast,” to be hosted by the wife of House Conference Chairman J.C. Watts, who is instrumental is setting the agenda for Congress. A call to SoCal Edison’s Washington office was not returned. The Nickles event also drew a top-tier commitment from the Mortgage Insurance Companies of America, a trade association battling gargantuan mortgage companies Fannie Mae and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp., or Freddie Mac, whose attempts to enter new markets have drawn the ire of many of the nation’s largest financial services companies. In addition to the Nickles party, the mortgage trade group is contributing to shindigs thrown by House Banking Financial Services Subcommittee Chairman Richard Baker of Louisiana and House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas. Both members’ offices declined to reveal how much sponsorships sold for. The mortgage insurers also declined comment. On its side, Freddie Mac has put $100,000 toward a dinner and several other events for Hastert, according to two lobbyists also underwriting the House speaker’s parties. The other major co-sponsor at that level is United Air Lines Inc., which was promised 16 convention credentials for its largess, according to the lobbyists. Freddie Mac is also sponsoring an afternoon ballroom party on Tuesday for the entire GOP leadership. Co-sponsoring the event — at $30,000 apiece — are Fannie Mae, the National Association of Realtors, the National Association of Home Builders, and the Mortgage Bankers Association of America. “It is always a good policy for Fannie to take part in an event that brings together the housing community with the leadership of Congress,” says Fannie Mae spokesman David Jeffers. Freddie Mac officials declined comment. ANSWERING THE CALL Another of the most prominent Capitol Hill battles to make its way to Philly is the struggle between telecom companies seeking an edge in the New Economy. Among the key controversies is whether local telephone companies can provide long-distance telephone and Internet service. This is a fight taking place at both the federal and the local levels, and the sponsorships reflect that fact. AT&T, which opposes expanding the local carriers’ reach, is kicking in for parties or golf tournaments for Nickles, House Commerce Committee Chairman Tom Bliley of Virginia, Senate Commerce Communications Subcommittee Chairman Conrad Burns of Montana, and Senate Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens of Alaska, who was one of the architects of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The company is also feting various state delegations and governors, including George Pataki of New York, Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey, and Jeb Bush of Florida. AT&T has major operations in all three states. In addition, Florida has become a major battleground over the power of local municipalities to regulate cable. AT&T spokesman Jim McGann declined to say how much the company was spending on the parties. On the local carriers side, one of the most ubiquitous party sponsors is Qwest Communications International Inc., the broadband Internet company that recently purchased U.S. West. In addition to promoting its policy agenda, the company is also pushing its brand, particularly with the convention delegates who might be purchasing their services, says spokesman Steven Hammack. Qwest is sponsoring a half-dozen receptions for state delegations and also is one of the five main sponsors of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Sunday night concert featuring rock group Earth, Wind & Fire. Hammack and the NRCC declined to say how much they paid for the concert. Military contractors will also be on the frontlines at the convention party circuit. Defense giant Lockheed Martin Corp. not only is donating to Lott’s sock hop but also is kicking in $100,000 to the convention Host Committee and throwing $10,000 to $15,000 per event to co-sponsor parties for Reps. Oxley, Tauzin, and Jerry Lewis of California, who chairs the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. Lockheed has had billions of dollars at stake before the members of Congress it is sponsoring, including its purchase of the Comsat Corp. satellite consortium, which falls under the purview of the Commerce Committee, and the $70 billion F-22 fighter program, which was shepherded through the Senate by Lott and is under the direct supervision of Lewis in the House. Lockheed spokesman Hugh Burns acknowledges that the company financially supports those members who have influence over the military budget. Another defense contractor, TRW Inc., is hosting a luncheon today for two key members with particular influence over its business with the government — Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Warner and Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, chairman of the NRCC. TRW’s primary concern now is the passage of the $60 billion national missile defense program, which holds the promise of a large chunk of business for TRW. Company officials declined comment. Compared with previous years, embattled cigarette and chewing tobacco makers are keeping a lower profile at this convention. In most cases, the companies have chosen to underwrite events with other companies, rather than host parties on their own. “We are looking to become partners in the search for common ground on tough issues,” says Philip Morris spokeswoman Roberts. In addition to the events it is helping fund for Lott and Armey, Philip Morris is also one of the $250,000 sponsors of the convention Host Committee. On its own, the company is also putting on small events for delegations from a half-dozen states and throwing several parties in the Republican Governors Association convention skybox. Chewing tobacco maker UST Inc., the parent of the U.S. Tobacco Co., is sponsoring parties for Lott, Armey, Tauzin, and the NRCC. UST spokeswoman Lisa Winjum says the sponsorships “are an opportunity to celebrate what’s good in the American political process.” And while many may have genuine personal and professional esteem for the members they are feting, there’s also no question that hosting the parties makes good business sense. For example, the tax lobbying arm of PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America Inc. are among those throwing a party in honor of Texas Rep. Bill Archer, who is retiring from the chairmanship of the powerful tax writing committee. PricewaterhouseCoopers did not return a phone call. But the liquor lobbying association has no pending legislation before the committee, although excise taxes remain a top concern, according to Juanita Duggan, who heads the group. “This is just a nice party for a nice guy,” she says. “That’s all it is.” Then again, the lobbyists throwing the party will be sharing their goodwill not only with Archer, but also with the other members of the House Ways and Means Committee, most of whom will still be writing tax laws next session.

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