Both the Democratic and Republican Senate campaign committees are holding big fundraisers -- the Democrats today at Google headquarters and the Republicans on Monday and Tuesday at the Grand Hyatt in Washington, DC. Consumer Watchdog objected to the Democratic event.
I am always uncomfortable with the way American politics is financed, awash in special interest money, so I'm not particularly happy with the Republican fundraiser. Nonetheless, we didn't formally object. Let me explain why.
This week my colleague Jamie Court and I urged seven Democratic Senators to skip the event at Google headquarters in Mountain View. It is a fundraiser posing as a public policy forum. Senators, tech company executives and venture capitalists are on panels together discussing Innovation and Technology, Health Care and Technology, and Energy and the Environment. The invitation to the event it calls a "National Innovation Conference."
Price of admission was a minimum of $5,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). You could have been a "host" if you forked over $30,400.
In our joint letter to the Senators we said, "A closed, donor-funded event is an inappropriate place for Senators to discuss matters affecting public policy. You will only hear the perspective of those who can afford the price of admission... This is a private hearing, bought and paid for only by those with a vested interest in the outcome...Public policy matters should be decided in a hearing room with sunlight and transparency not a $5,000-per-seat minimum venue on the Googleplex Campus."
In reporting our concerns about the DSCC "National Innovation Conference", both the San Francisco Chronicle and the National Journal alluded to the event sponsored by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC).
There are differences -- no matter how unhappy we are about money and politics. First, the GOP calls the function the "Fall Meeting of the National Republican Senatorial Committee." It's not a fundraiser posing as public policy forum. Instead of a policy discussion on technology, Matt Yalowitz with Google and Adam Conner with Facebook will explain how technology and new media can influence the 2010 Senate races. Admission to the NRSC ranges from $2,000 if you just want to have lunch and hear Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and range up $29,000 for the entire two-day program.
Of course it's all about giving access to people with big bucks, but at least the GOP is a little more candid about what they're doing. Both parties do share one approach: Neither event is open to the press. What do you think happens inside that they don't want you to read about?