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Not a dull moment at GOP convention

Riggers load nets full balloons for Republican National Conventifestivities inside TampBay Times Forum Friday Aug. 24 2012 TampFla.  (AP

Riggers load nets full of balloons for the Republican National Convention festivities inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum, Friday, Aug. 24, 2012, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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Updated: September 27, 2012 11:24AM

WASHINGTON — The GOP convention in Tampa, even with the Monday opening session canceled because of the potential of a hurricane or tropical storm, is a conglomerate of hundreds of activities — parties, policy panels, concerts, briefings, VIP events for mega-donors and, of course, a presidential nomination for Mitt Romney.

While the convention itself will be held through Thursday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, venues are spread throughout the Tampa Bay area — with a popular place for a lot of the parties in lovely and historic Ybor City — once a cigar manufacturing center, now the locale of a lot of hot clubs and restaurants.

The Democrats have a plethora of events surrounding their convention the following week in Charlotte, N.C. — and I’ll let you know about their party schedule highlights next Sunday.

Major fund-raisers — “bundlers” who tap their personal and professional networks for contributions — experience a very rarefied convention; National Finance Committee members will stay at the Marriott Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club and Westin Tampa Harbour Island where they will get attended to by the Romney national fund-raising staff.

The focus of the Romney/Republican National Committee joint “Victory Fund” donor maintenance is on “Founding Members ($50,000 contribute), “Founding Partners” ($100,000) “Stars” (raise $250,000) and “Stripes” (raise $500,000).

They will have credentials for convention sessions and be able to watch the proceedings from a VIP Lounge at the Forum. Also on the VIP plan: briefings by GOP luminaries: to name a few, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Governors Jeb Bush, Tim Pawlenty and current Governors Rick Scott and Bob McDonnell plus campaign figures.

On Monday, the Oakridge Boys are scheduled at a VIP donor reception and Thursday at the late night party, from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., Don Felder, the former lead guitarist of the Eagles, will entertain.

Other major GOP political operations — raising money to elect Republican governors and House and Senate members — also are running their own programs to cater to high-end donors.

For example, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is offering top donors a perk package with access to hard-to-get hotel rooms, credentials to at least two convention sessions and a pass to convention “hospitality” area and parties.

Conventions have evolved into marketing, branding and promotion opportunities with corporate underwriters bankrolling during the week a string of newsmaker events with elected officials and political figures sponsored by media outlets: National Journal/Atlantic, Politico and Huffington Post, just to name a few.

CNN is reprising its “CNN Grills,” opening diners near the convention halls with double duties: broadcast studios and popular hangouts for politicos, operatives and journalists.

Most delegates arrive Sunday — that’s when the Illinois contingent starts checking into the Sheraton Sand Key Resort, on the Clearwater Beach waterfront, but 30 miles from the Forum.

The Illinois Republican Party has put together a packed schedule of events, for delegates and guests, outside of the morning delegation breakfasts and convention sessions:

Weather permitting, a beach party on Monday with Sister Hazel performing; on Tuesday, an afternoon reception at a Tampa restaurant hosted by the Illinois GOP House and Senate Leaders, Christine Radogno and Tom Cross, sponsored by AT&T. The Tuesday late night, from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., is at a Ybor City club.

The Illinois delegates are being “honored” at a Thursday lunch hosted by the Fund for American Opportunity PAC.

Each night Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford is hosting a convention viewing reception at the Sheraton.

The Sunday night welcome party is for everybody — delegates, alternates, media, etc. — sponsored by the Tampa Convention Host committee at the Raymond James Stadium, where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play.

Other events are by invitation. Here’s a sampler:


Harvard’s Institute of Politics, Bloomberg News and USC’s Annenberg Center hosts a symposium on “Campaign Finance and the Impact on Political Discourse.


† CNN and Time host a pre-party at the CNN Grill. … the American Action Network, a non-profit that sort of acts like a SuperPac, launches daily policy briefings and receptions. ... The American Conservative Union and the Future Majority Pac, which focuses on local GOP races, team to host a late night at the Cuban Club in Ybor City with Romney campaign adviser Ed Gillespie and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida.)

† The National Journal/Atlantic and CBS News are running daily briefing sessions and convention “watch” parties.


† The Personal Care Products Council, a cosmetics industry trade association, sponsors “Cocktails Cosmetics,” a “reception with makeup and nail refreshers” at a Ybor City hair salon. … Ann Romney is the “special guest” at a fund-raiser for GOP Florida Senate candidate Rep. Connie Mack, $1,000 a person, $10,000 raise or donate to host.

†Conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the Republican National Coalition for Life, and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, honor “four pro-life heros of 2012” — including former GOP presidential candidates Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann — at the Florida Aquarium, tab $300 to $1,000.

† Twentieth Century Fox is screening “Won’t Back Down,” to be released next month, which is about how two women try to transform an inner city school with a panel afterward with Condoleezza Rice and Jeb Bush.


† Huffington Post, NBC News, LinkedIn, Starbucks, Microsoft, and several foundations host a jobs creation exhibition and a lunch panel moderated by Tom Brokaw on “Opportunity: What is Working, a bipartisan search for solutions to the jobs crisis.”

† The Foreign Policy Initiative has a session on “Restoring American Leadership in the World,” with Pawlenty and Weekly Standard editor William Kristol. … Former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum and his wife, Karen, host a “Patriots for Romney/Ryan” rally, a project of his new political action committee, “Patriot Voices.

† Author Meghan McCain, the daughter of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, is the headliner for a Republican Women’s Leadership “exclusive convention soiree” with the main sponsors Lifetime Television and Variety magazine.

† The Chicago-based Real Clear Politics teams with Blackberry for a viewing party.


† Google, which is running a big operation in the media filing center, where it will host Google Hangouts, teams with the center-right YG Network for an “American Innovation” late night (9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.) at the Tampa Museum of Art.

† The Republican Jewish Coalition hosts a salute to Republican governors, following its Wednesday salute to “pro-Israel’ House and Senate “top leadership.’

† And on Friday, everybody goes home, except for reporters like myself who vault to Charlotte to do it again next week.

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