The moments to cherish for delegates attending the Republican National Convention in July will no longer include getting down on it with Kool & the Gang. The R&B band that surfed the disco wave into the early 1980s with hits such as “Celebration” was billed as entertainment for a party honoring prominent Republican politicians during the party’s presidential nominating convention in Cleveland.
But Carla Eudy, a prominent GOP fundraiser whose past convention parties have been sponsored by the likes of Koch Industries and megadonor Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp., said Kool & the Gang was no longer participating. Eudy, in an email, declined to explain why the band would no longer play the July 17 event. “The reasons are between us and the band, and we agreed not to discuss the terms,” she wrote.
Kool & the Gang’s management company, Red Light Management, did not respond to a request for comment.
A solicitation sent to prospective sponsors states the party is meant to honor Republican leadership and members of the U.S. Senate, with National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, a U.S. senator from Mississippi, as the featured speaker.
The GOP’s party planners are unlikely to have much trouble finding a replacement for Kool & the Gang. Kid Rock, Journey, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Commodores, among others, have played Republican convention-associated events in past years.
Mindful of the tradition of corporate lobbyists using party conventions as a primary opportunity to connect with elected officials, Congress in 2007 passed ethics-reform legislation that in part attempted to curb influence peddling at conventions. Still, multiple loopholes allow convention goers, especially members of Congress, to have their pick of lavish functions carefully tailored to comply with the law.
Eudy’s event, for example, will be held a day before the Republican National Convention kicks off, which averts restrictions on influence peddling there.
“Simply by staging this party prior to the official date of the convention, those who can afford the price of admission will no doubt be duly recognized and given one-on-one face time with the senators and party officials,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for the nonprofit advocacy group Public Citizen, after seeing a flier advertising sponsorship packages for the July party.
In an interview with the Center for Public Integrity, Eudy said the point of the date outside of the convention period wasn’t evading ethics rules that apply specifically to events held within the dates of the convention. Rather, it was because there’s less competition from other parties for venues and delegates, she said.
The lowest-tier sponsorship option for the party — the $25,000 “Huron” package — includes 10 tickets to a VIP area, 10 general admission tickets and corporate name and logo placement on invitations, credentials and event signage.
Then there’s the $100,000 “superior” package for the main event underwriter, which includes more tickets, a roped-off area within the VIP section, prominent corporate logo placement and a backstage photo op with the band for up to six couples.
Past sponsors for events put together by Eudy’s team include America’s Health Insurance Plans, Google, ExxonMobil and a long list of other prominent corporations and trade associations.
So far, most lobbying firms and companies are keeping their 2016 national convention plans quiet.
For example, prominent Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta did confirm his firm, the Podesta Group, will host events at both conventions. Republican lobbying firm BGR Group, headed by former Republican National Committee Chairman and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, confirmed it will be hosting a party, but declined to release details.
There’s some evidence, however, that high-profile venues in both cities are booking up.
For instance, Jenny Packer, a spokeswoman for the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, said the museum, which is dedicated to increasing awareness of the Constitution, has had multiple queries for dates during or around the Democratic National Convention and already has several nights on hold.
“I expect that we will definitely be booked every single evening of the convention,” she said.
Some parties raise money for charity. Others, including the one organized by Eudy, are “truly just a party,” she said. “We solicit sponsors to pay for the event.”
This story is from the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative media organization in Washington, D.C. Read more of its investigations on the influence of money in politics or follow it on Twitter.