Under Surveillance

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Just how well are those new ethics laws working out when it comes to corporations and their lobbyists throwing big parties for lawmakers attending the party conventions this week and next? The watchdogs of Washington, DC are looking to find out and now they're in Denver paying visits -- or at least trying to -- to the many events being put on by companies with a very real interest in getting legislators on their side.

We already told you a little about Political Party Time, run by the Sunlight Foundation, that tracks the parties being thrown to schmooze with and raise money for lawmakers. Now the creators of the site along with other allies are in Denver and making the rounds:

So far, some of the watchdogs haven’t had that much success crashing parties. Nancy Watzman, the blogger for www.politicalpartytime.org , as well as Garbiela Schneider, the Sunlight Foundation’s communications director, showed up with a crew from “Inside Edition” at the Denver Art Museum for a party hosted by the well-connected West Coast lobbying firm Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber, Schreck. Partner Steve Farber is the chief fundraiser for the Democratic National Convention.

At the entrance where invitees checked in there was a large sign pointing out a separate VIP line for “elected officials.” The ethics police and “Inside Edition” were not on the guest list, so they were politely denied entry.

Things got more thuggish at the Blue Night party honoring the Blue Dog Coalition, sponsored by AT&T and Genworth Financial and held outside the Pepsi Center. Watzman told the bouncers where they were from and asked if they could come in, and was told not only could she not gain entry, but that she could not stand near the entrance because it was private property.

Watzman blogged about her experience: “When I demurred from moving, a police woman walked over to me, said, ‘So YOU’RE the self professed party crasher?’ and told me I had to stand over on public space. So Gabriela and I complied.”

Hey, we're not surprised. In and amidst all the legal team-approved finger food and carefully worded invitation language, lots of deals are getting made on the other side of the velvet ropes. Got to keep those party crashers out.