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Meet the 51 corporations wining and dining GOP-convention media

One of the Republican National Convention’s first events is the Media Party, a chance for journalists to stop their headlong pursuit of political corruption and enjoy a little taste of it themselves.

Traditionally, a local news operation — often the biggest daily — sponsors the 15,000-person fete, providing the veneer that we’re being fed, liquored and entertained by one of own. But such is the joy of out-of-town ownership and a cratering ad climate: Neither the Star Tribune nor Pioneer Press forked over the dough to become the Minneapolis affair’s named sponsor.

(And yes, it really is Minneapolis this time: The Saturday, Aug. 30 event will be held along the riverfront near the Guthrie Theater and Mill City Museum.)

A tragedy? Hardly. It’d be a real outrage if the Strib ponied up weeks after cutting its newsroom budget 10 percent and trying to carve a similar amount from some workers’ paychecks. Ditto the PiPress, just as it’s skinnying up its Monday and Tuesday editions.

Explains a PiPress spokesperson, “Marketing and sponsorship decisions are made locally, with an emphasis on reaching and serving our local market. The national media event is not a good fit with these objectives.”

Hmm. PiPress owner Media News Group is co-sponsoring the 2008 Democratic National Convention media party, even though its Denver Post is a lot closer to failing than the local property. The difference? Media News is headquartered in Denver, not St. Paul.

The absentee publishers left locals scrambling to offload the media party obligation.

According to MSP 2008 Host Committee Communications director Teresa McFarland, a group of major local corporations accepted smaller chunks of the bill through their Minneapolis St. Paul More to Life campaign. If nothing else, the party serves the group’s goal of marketing the Twin Cities, to 15,000 influential, if cynical, folks.

Even though I do the Caesar’s Wife thing here at MinnPost, I’m not going to tell you that one star-dappled riverfront night will turn journalists into starry-eyed water-carriers, for our region or the GOP. Then again, they will taste the slow-cooked corruption that’s less about ribs-and-chicken at John McCain’s ranch than the clubby affinity — and legitimate public distrust — such soirees engender.

Even if some donors had to be begged, we’re taking a bribe and it’s good to know who’s giving it.

According to the group’s website, More to Life’s major sponsors are: Target, General Mills, Best Buy, Wells Fargo, Xcel Energy, Supervalu, HealthPartners, Cargill, Imation, 3M, Amerprise, US Bank and Hubbard Broadcasting.

McFarland also cites United HealthGroup, Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Pentair and Northwest Airlines. [Update: the Minnesota Private College Council also made a small contribution to the More to Life effort.]

McFarland wouldn’t disclose the media event’s tab, but $50 per person would equal a $750,000 affair. I’m told that because money had to be beaten out of donors with sticks, it will be a much, much less costly event (restaurants are being hit up, too), and perhaps something of a comedown for the national swells.

Remaining party costs will be paid from the convention’s $58 million general operating budget.

Who are the convention’s major donors? Corporations not listed above include: Anheuser-Busch, Astra Zeneca Pharmaceuticals, AT&T, Boston Scientific, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Carlson Cos., CHS, Cisco, Comcast,  Diageo, Ecolab, Fed Ex, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Koch Industries, Kraus-Anderson, Mall of America, Medtronic, Microsoft, Minnesota Private Colleges Council, Nash Finch, Securian Financial, St. Jude Medical, Target, Coca-Cola, Mosaic, Travelers, ThomsonWest, Thrivent Financial, UPS, Verizon, Waste Management, Inc. and West.

You can look at this list and say it’s so diffuse that no private entity obviously benefits.

Or you can say that list comprises entities we cover every day, and shouldn’t take succor from. After all, most journalists wouldn’t let the president of a corporation buy us a nice dinner and cocktails; why is it different when 50 of his or her pals pitch in?

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You can glimpse some photos of the 2004 DNC media party — sponsored by the Boston Globe, replete with Little Richard and a Ferris wheel — here. The lead photo doesn’t exactly scream excitement, however.

Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by David Brauer on 08/19/2008 - 01:03 pm.

    Tom, I’ll be looking for a guy stirring his drink with the straw man. The point here is not impartiality – I’ve never claimed it and don’t insist on it. (The Caesar’s wife thing has more to do with acknowledging financial conflicts.) Ditto my “hatred of capitalism,” though I know that’s the cherry on top (or is the umbrella?).

    But as I’m sure you know, there’s no free lunch. Wining and dining has influence, otherwise lobbyists, etc. wouldn’t do it. As noted in the story, this is a serial corruption, another brick in the wall. Writers somewhere north of True North’s ethics policies should think about what they’re doing.

    A simple check oughta put folks on the right side of a good thing. That wasn’t so hard! See you there, with receipt and a smile, if I go.

  2. Submitted by John Olson on 08/19/2008 - 03:24 pm.

    Cisco are the folks who sell all kinds of computer gizmos. Your ability (and mine) to post on here and elsewhere can probably be attributed (in part) to a bunch of Cisco routers sitting somewhere.

    Sysco on the other hand….bring on the carrots and dip!

  3. Submitted by Rice Rice on 08/19/2008 - 02:46 pm.

    I think you mean Sysco not Cisco…unless it’s the Kid to whom you refer, not the restaurant suppliers.

  4. Submitted by David Brauer on 08/19/2008 - 03:53 pm.

    According to the Host Committee list, it’s Cisco Systems, not Sysco – though I’m sure Sysco will find a way to make some cash on this deal!

  5. Submitted by John Olson on 08/19/2008 - 08:29 pm.

    At least it isn’t Crisco!

  6. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/19/2008 - 12:38 pm.

    You folks really can’t help it, can you David?

    Even while in the midst of once again passionately pleading the dubious case for “your” impartial journalistic integrity, that old leftist bugaboo…hatred of capitalism….must need creep to the surface.

    Here’s a friendly tip, David.

    It’s not the affable consumption of ribs and chicken with corporate swells that engenders public distrust; it’s the left wing media’s continual insistence that such a thing as impartial journalistic integrity exists (to any appreciable extent) in the first place.

    Most people are just not as dull-witted as you may have been led to believe.

    As three of the fortunate few “alternative media” recipients of a RNC media pass, two friends from and I will be counted among the party attendees. We will enjoy ourselves to whatever extent we can, and then we will write our stories as they present themselves while proudly acknowledging the conservative bias we three share, and which any reader of reasonable intelligence can just as easily detect as they can the leftist slant here.

    I happen to love ribs and chicken, especially when it’s “free”.

    Hope to see you there, David…I’ll just look for the sour looking fellow drinking water from the drinking fountain, chewing on a bag lunch from home and introduce myself.

  7. Submitted by B Maginnis on 08/21/2008 - 03:10 pm.

    Thomas Swift – bullseye, my man!

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