For many politically connected law and lobbying firms, the Democratic National Convention this week isn’t so much about the Party as it is about the parties.
The real action at the convention is not on the floor, where everything has been scripted months in advance. It’s at the social gatherings. And although law firms probably won’t be bagging new clients there, sponsored events are opportunities for the firms to get their names out and to show that their partners hobnob with the powerful.
“You do events to give yourself visibility,” says Stuart Pape, managing partner of Patton Boggs. “That’s part of a branding campaign for a firm like ours.”
In Boston, where the convention begins Monday and ends Thursday evening with John Kerry’s acceptance speech, the parties are coming in all shapes and sizes: receptions, brunches, midnight snacks, dinner dances. Most are designed to thank political supporters, to demonstrate a firm’s proximity to power and, not incidentally, to let the good times roll.
Take Pape’s firm, a card-carrying member of the Washington law and lobbying elite. Patton Boggs has long and deep ties to the Democrats. Name partner Thomas Hale Boggs Jr. is the son of two former members of the House of Representatives and a power player in his own right.
The firm is co-sponsoring a splashy buffet supper Wednesday at Saint — a hipper-than-thou nightspot in the Copley Plaza Hotel where $11 martinis are the norm.
Sponsors are tight-lipped about what this type of affair can cost. But a high-end Washington event planner says an evening event for several hundred people in a swank location can easily run to $100,000 and above.
At the Patton Boggs party, the guest list might be the main attraction. The firm is honoring the Massachusetts congressional delegation — which includes, of course, Kerry, and Kerry’s campaign confidant and fellow senator, Edward Kennedy. The firm’s co-sponsor for the reception is MassMutual Financial Group, a longtime client.
“It’s natural for us to partner with them, and it’s natural to honor the Massachusetts delegation, which is the home state delegation of the convention and the delegation that is associated with the presidential nominee,” says Pape.
Patton Boggs, of course, is not the only politically savvy firm that has put together an invitation-only event at the convention.
On July 27, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld is holding a brunch at the Algonquin Club honoring New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, the convention’s chairman who had been on the short list of possible running mates for Kerry.