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
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
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,
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
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
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.''