At the Democratic National Convention in Denver, credentials and status mean everything. As a lowly weekly reporter, I get less access than daily newspaper reporters, who are lower on the totem pole than TV reporters. But, as always, money is the credential that confers real access.
Last night, while wandering around the Pepsi Center, I stumbled into a service entrance to the "Club Level" which is way off limits to the likes of me.
There was high-end booze, and lots of good food in evidence (in contrast to the rest of the Pepsi Center, which appears to share a caterer with the Denver city jail and where coffee -- good, bad or indifferent -- is rarer than a camera-shy politician.) Well-dressed, beautifully coiffed swells over-flowed from the sky box luxury suites, partying like it was 1992.
(Unfortunately, I forgot to take any pictures and was later left staring upward in wonderment, below).
Today, I asked publisher Win McCormack, vintner Eric Lemelson and lawyer Bob Stoll, three top Oregon political contributers, all of whom are here for the convention, whether they had been invited to the club level. None had. (They give primarily in Oregon races, it seems).
So who were these high rollers whooping it up on the Club Level?
Fortuitously, the Center For Responsive Politics
, an excellent Washington D.C.-based source for money-in-politics information, issued a report called "Who's Up in Those Skyboxes"
today examining the "bundlers," individuals who raise large sums of money for candidates, and who are the biggest sources of presidential loot.
(Here I am staring in bafflement up at the Pepsi Center Skyboxes while waiting for Jeff Merkley's speech).
Interestingly, not a single Oregonian is listed among Obama's leading bundlers. But there are no less than eight Oregonians who are top fundraisers for the presumptive Republican nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain.
Among the eight McCain "bundlers" are three bold-faced Portland names: hotelier Gordon Sondland (whose wife Katy Durant is the chair of the Oregon Investment Council, which invests state pension money); lumber tycoon Peter Stott; and, ironically, Judy Peppler, Qwest's top executive in Oregon.
Where's the irony? Peppler was sitting in the bosom of the Oregon Democratic delegation at breakfast all week, and Qwest picked up the $8,000 tab for this morning's meal.