Skeet Shootin', Puttin', ACCESS!!

Jeffrey St. Clair sitka at
Thu Nov 18 19:23:08 PST 1999

Lobbyists Swarm GOP Govs' Meeting

By SCOTT LINDLAW Associated Press Writer

CARLSBAD, Calif. (AP) -- Special interest groups descended on an opulent golf

resort Thursday seeking face time with 25 GOP governors gathered for their

annual conference.

The National Rifle Association offered skeet shooting lessons for its ``guests''

here, Toyota invited governors to drive its new fuel-sipping car, and 78 advocacy

groups and companies chipped in tens of thousands of dollars to cover the

Republican Governors Association's meeting.

Many of those contributors were treated to private meals with the governors and

key staff. In some cases, the meals were paid for by companies, including a

Thursday dinner for chiefs of staff sponsored by Wyeth-Ayerst Pharmaceuticals.

``There's relatively easy access'' to the governors, said Mike Phillips, representing

RJR Reynolds Tobacco. ``We'll be playing golf, and at the functions and business

meetings, you have access.''

The talk with governors and staffers is a mix of business and pleasure, said

Phillips, who flew in from Winston-Salem, N.C.

``You check on what kind of shape their budget is in for the next session, what

issues are coming up, national politics,'' he said.

``It's an opportunity to meet and talk with governors and their staffs about the

issues,'' said Tim Campbell, who traveled from Hartford, Conn., as a representative

of Citigroup.

He listed as examples insurance regulation, securities law and rules on the use of

personal information. But, he added, ``This is not a lobbying, high-pressure,

arm-twisting gathering.''

The RGA meeting is ``a target-rich environment,'' said another lobbyist, who spoke

on condition he not be identified.

Several governors said there was nothing inappropriate about mixing with


``Unfortunately, I think this happens in both parties, but I have never had anyone --

and I've been to several of these meetings -- I've never had any of the corporate

entities come lobby me on anything,'' said Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster.

``They've been going to these things for the last 25 years, I suspect; It's usually the

same corporate types and union types that follow the Democrats ...,'' said

Connecticut Gov. John Rowland. ``I don't think it's a big deal.''

``The relationships that most of us have with those who would represent those

communities is, from my experience, far more just social,'' Pennsylvania Gov. Tom

Ridge said.

The 500 lobbyists spent Thursday roaming the La Costa Spa and Resort, a

sprawling complex where green fees usually cost $160. Phillips said the golf fees

were included as part of his company's contribution to the RGA.

Sponsoring organizations donated between $1,000 and $30,000 to help pay for the

conference, said RGA executive director Clinton Key.

The RGA declined to release a list of sponsors, but a copy obtained by The

Associated Press showed 78 companies and advocacy groups had contributed.

They included three tobacco companies, three telecommunications firms, an Indian

tribe, Microsoft Corp., the American Forest & Paper Association and Phillips

Petroleum Co.

Also listed as sponsors were Robin and Gerry Parsky, who is chairman of Texas

Gov. George W. Bush's presidential campaign in California. The Parskys hosted a

dinner for governors and members of the RGA's ``Governors' Cabinet'' -- those

who had contributed $100,000 to the association.

Other ``participation options'' for RGA contributors, according to an association

memo, include the Board Membership, for $40,000; the Council Membership, for

$25,000; the Forum Membership, for $15,000; and the Club Membership, for


That money goes to the Republican National State Elections account, the memo

stated. It added that ``there is no statutory limit on the amount a corporation,

individual or PAC may contribute to RGA.''

The corporate presence here was evident from the moment the conference opened

Wednesday night with a concert by the Beach Boys.

Surf outfitter Quiksilver, Inc. donated floral shorts ``to insure that all party

attendees have the proper beach attire'' for the occasion, former Republican

National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour wrote in a letter to participants.

The note was written on letterhead from Barbour's law firm, Barbour Griffith &

Rogers, which also was listed as an RGA sponsor.

The news media covering the event were billed $100 each for ``refreshments.''

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