Protestors will shout. Delegates may revolt. Factions will haggle over rules and platform proposals.
But come later this month, no amount of friction will stop corporations, unions and special interests from spending tens of millions of dollars to bankroll nonstop partying at the Democratic and Republican national conventions. Thank federal campaign finance rules that allow unlimited contributions to support them.
Special interests concerned about chaos under their corporate logos shouldn’t fret. There are plenty of ways to show support for the quadrennial bacchanalias and discreetly secure access to lawmakers and political power players without earning unwanted attention.
Certainly some high-profile companies and individual donors — the list includes billionaire Paul Singer, Apple, Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Wal-Mart — are scaling back on giving to the host committees this time.
Some reportedly want to distance themselves from controversies surrounding presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee-in-waiting, is also historically unpopular with the public and attempting to weather fallout from her State Department email imbroglio, in which the FBI this week deemed her conduct “extremely careless,” although not worthy of criminal charges.
Meanwhile, many special interests, from Comcast Corp. to financial giant JPMorgan Chase to insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield, will participate in convention-related activities, but they’ve become more creative in how they influence conventioneers — or are altogether refusing to discuss their convention plans.
“They want to show up, they want to rub elbows with everyone at the conventions, they just don’t want the corporate name out there,” said Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist for advocacy group Public Citizen, who has long tracked influence efforts at the conventions. “They’ll be looking for lower-key ways of doing the same thing they’ve always done.”
The Center for Public Integrity contacted dozens of companies to inquire about their plans for contributing to the convention host committees or sponsor private events at the collection. The companies include the largest contributors to both 2012 national conventions and the top 10 Fortune 500 companies.
Many didn’t respond to questions, and almost none would provide specific details about their 2016 convention involvement. But through public records and other sources, the Center for Public Integrity identified major sponsorship opportunities and big-time backers.