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Lobbyists leave GOP National Convention. Next stop, Democratic National Convention

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Republicans have wrapped up their convention in Tampa. Now hundreds of business people and lobbyists are boarding planes to join the Democrats in Charlotte for their national convention next week.Every morning, during a national political convention, it doesn’t matter which party, delegates and others gather in hotel ballrooms to hear fiery political speeches by party luminaries. 

But not every speech is a political barn burner.

For example, Michigan delegates listened intently, though with a few yawns,  to a 15 minute briefing on the nation's tax policy by one of Detroit's Big Three.  

“It’s important that we have a tax policy that’s consistent and fair…that helps U.S. based companies,"  Mark Fields told Michigan delegates to the Republican National Convention Thursday.

Fields is the Ford Motor Company’s president of the Americas. He didn't attend the breakfast meeting to endorse a candidate.  But Fields did try to make a point about trade and tax policy.

Fields says another Ford executive will deliver the same message next week to Democrats in Charlotte for that party’s national convention.

“I think it’s important as a company that we be part of the process or at least be able to talk about the issues that are important to Ford and to manufacturing in the United States. And that’s why we come to visit the various parties. That’s what we do on an ongoing basis," said Fields after leaving the breakfast meeting. 

Ford’s not alone. Many business people and lobbyists are busy wooing top political leaders at both conventions.

Sheila Krumholz is the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.  The center’s Open Secrets website monitors lobbying in Washington.

She says the Ford Motor Company speech is only one facet of the lobbying game at a national political convention.

“What’s more valuable is to have private time with members (of Congress) at lavish receptions…where there is fancy food…an open bar and a festive atmosphere…everyone’s relaxed and having a good time," said Krumholz. 

Those parties take place every day and night during the convention’s three or four-day run.

Krumholz says national political conventions provide an opportunity for lobbyists and business leaders to have access to concentrated power.

“They’re hear trying to use one of these rare opportunities ….where everybody is in one place….to both remind the candidates of their support for them…past, present and future….and to make sure they understand what their concerns are and what their legislative agenda is," said Krumholz.  

Krumholz says the conventions are now more about the parties and lobbying than actual decision making for the political parties, which she suggests should call into question the $36 million in federal funding provided to hold both conventions this year. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.