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Comparing Democratic, GOP fundraisers

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Fri, Nov 13, 2009 at 2:13 pm

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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?

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This post was written by:

John M. Simpson

- who has written 349 posts on Inside Google.

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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