WASHINGTON - At the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia this week, the financial services industry will be dropping big bucks so attendees can rock 'n' roll with Dick Clark and wolf down everything from cheese steak to gumbo.
Besides annointing George W. Bush the GOP nominee, delegates will be partying at soirees hosted by banks such as First Union Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co. and by lawmakers with key industry connections like Reps. Mike G. Oxley of Ohio and Richard Baker of Louisiana.
"You go to the conventions to interact with people. It's schmoozing," said Edward L. Yingling, chief lobbyist for the American Bankers Association. "It's important when you're a major national player to be seen. It's also an opportunity to talk to an awful lot of people in one place."
In that spirit, the ABA is teaming up with five big banks to host a reception for the 11 Republican members of the Senate Banking Committee.
The 300 invitees will gather Tuesday night in an historic building First Union inherited when it bought First Fidelity. In addition to First Union, the banks sharing the tab with the ABA are MBNA Corp., Mellon Financial Corp., PNC Financial Services Group Inc., and Wells Fargo.
Rep. Baker, a candidate for House Banking Committee chairman, and other House GOP leaders are holding a Louisiana-style reception this evening, complete with Cajun food and zydeco music, in that same First Union building in honor of the Baton Rouge lawmaker's fellow committee members.
The invitation says it all: Laissez les bons temps rouler! ("Let the good times roll!").
The event's 14 sponsors include Providian Financial Corp., American International Group, Household International Inc., Wells Fargo, GE Capital, and First Union.
Such parties are not fundraisers, but that does not mean they come cheap.
One veteran industry lobbyist said this year's conventions are far more expensive than four years ago, when a company might have been asked to pony up about $5,000 to co-sponsor a party. "This year nobody is interested in talking about less than $20,000," the lobbyist said. "It's just gotten much more lavish."
High-priced talent is part of the reason.
Rep. Oxley, who is eyeing the top spot on the House Commerce Committee, needed a long list of backers for his "American Bandstand" revival party scheduled for tonight.
The sponsors of the party - whose invitation plays a snippet from Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" when opened - have rented the original soundstage where the weekly baby boomer TV classic was broadcast and hired the eternally youthful Mr. Clark to reprise his emcee role.
Hometown sons Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, and Chubby Checker are scheduled to entertain. Among the companies and trade groups paying the 1950s music idols are the Investment Company Institute, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co., Merrill Lynch & Co., Prudential Insurance Company of America, the American Insurance Association, and the American Council of Life Insurers.
Among banking companies, Chase Manhattan Corp. is the most ambitious party-giver with two events planned for Tuesday.
At least 250 people are expected at a lunch honoring women members of Congress at the University of Pennsylvania's Institute of Contemporary Art. Chase has invited lawmakers from its big markets - New York, New Jersey, Texas, Florida, and Ohio - including Rep. Marge Roukema, R-N.J., who is Rep. Baker's rival to become House Banking chief.
Chase executives better pace themselves, however, because that night they are scheduled to hobnob with more than 500 guests in the Zanzibar Blue jazz club at a party for delegates from New York and Texas.
Some industry types plan to mix work with pleasure.
Five major banking, lending, real estate, and building trade groups are throwing a party Tuesday to sell Republicans on a national housing policy that encourages homeownership.
At a reception in the Downtown Marriott, the ABA, America's Community Bankers, Mortgage Bankers Association of America, National Association of Home Builders, and National Association of Realtors plan to hawk a glossy 12-page policy statement to convention delegates and others who bend the ear of candidates.
Senate Banking Chairman Phil Gramm, a Texas delegate to the convention and a former economics professor, plans to sneak in a Tuesday morning tour of the Second Bank of the United States, which now is an historic portrait gallery. His 2002 campaign committee is holding a fundraiser tonight.