BOSTON – The Edison Electric Institute's (search) leader is one of President Bush's top fund-raisers, but that isn't stopping the power company lobby from courting Democrats at the party's convention.
Like several other industries that lean Republican in their employee and political action committee campaign donations, the energy industry isny, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, BellSouth and Wal-Mart.
Dozens of partygoers — many arriving from the convention hall in business suits — sipped cocktails and ate hors d'oeuvres, some dancing to the band.
Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (search), a Texas Democrat and chairman of the Hispanic caucus, said it would be hard to hold the conventions without sponsors. While Rodriguez was confident people would come to a caucus event without the glitz, entertainment helps, he said.
"It's basically corporate America that allows an opportunity for something like this to happen," Rodriguez said.
Caucus guest and California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante (search) said he considered such corporate sponsorship "the same as a commercial" promoting the companies. Bustamante said he was unaware the gas association was a sponsor of the dance party.
AGA's other activities included a "Night on Beacon Hill" reception Monday for Montana Sen. Max Baucus, ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Committee on Taxation; and a luncheon Wednesday honoring New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the top Democrat on the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
"We typically have a presence at both conventions," AGA spokeswoman Daphne Magnuson said. "We're fortunate. Natural gas, it's a nonpartisan fuel. Republicans like it and Democrats like it."
AGA and Edison see passage of Bush's energy proposal as a priority, and need votes from Senate Democrats to do it. The Senate is split 51-48 between Republicans and Democrats, with one Democratic-leaning independent.
Edison's president, Tom Kuhn, has made no secret of his Republican loyalties, raising at least $100,000 for Bush's re-election effort and advising Bush on energy policy as he prepared to take office in 2001.
Nonetheless, Edison is throwing several parties during John Kerry's moment in the spotlight in Boston. They include a "Salute to the Dakotans" at a Boston restaurant, a luncheon cruise and an evening party at the New England Aquarium.
Though the GOP's majority is bigger in the House, the defense industry too is courting Democrats in Boston. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamic, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman are among government contractors sponsoring a luncheon Wednesday for California Rep. Jane Harman, a member of the House Energy and Commerce and Select Intelligence committees.
The pharmaceutical industry, accused by Democratic lawmakers of overcharging consumers and opposing drug import legislation that attempts to lower prescription costs, is also stepping into Democratic territory.
Pfizer and its Agouron branch, which makes AIDS drugs, are joining the Multicultural Aids Coalition to sponsor "Portraits of Life and Courage" during the convention.
"It's about getting our message out there that Pfizer is part of the health care system," said Jack Cox, a company spokesman. "Solving the problems within the health care system is going to take a national dialogue and ultimately a national consensus. Along the way we're going to have disagreements with both parties."
Pfizer is also helping sponsor a "night of comedy, music and fun" in honor of Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd, a member of the Senate Health Committee. Pfizer has a major research facility in Connecticut.
Pfizer's chief executive, Hank McKinnell, raised at least $200,000 for Bush's re-election campaign, and the company is on the host committee for the GOP's upcoming presidential convention in New York.
The financial services industry has one of the biggest convention presences.
Citigroup sponsored a pregame reception Monday at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. A slew of others, including MassMutual Financial Group, Sovereign Bank, the National Association of Federal Credit Unions, UBS Financial Services, PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Bank of New York are among those inviting members of Congress to events in Boston this week.
Union Pacific Corp., which counts a major Bush fund-raiser among its executives, sponsored a reception at Boston's Museum of Science and will throw a post-convention party honoring Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Arkansas convention delegates. The state has a large Union Pacific operation.
The railroad's chief executive, Richard Davidson, has raised at least $200,000 for Bush's re-election drive and is a Bush appointee to the Homeland Security Advisory Council and the National Infrastructure Advisory Committee.
"We support candidates from both parties," said railroad spokesman John Bromley. The company, concerned by fuel costs, wants Congress to pass Bush's energy proposal.