Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I'm a dealer of illicit material

As I have fallen behind on the blogging I’ll try to fit two days into one here. On Monday we started the real wheeling and dealing. One of my boss’ responsibilities at the convention is to get as many credentials as possible so that we can get our foreign dignitaries into the convention as often as possible. This is always a difficult task, but during a convention year with this much hype and so little space in the convention hall it is daunting.

The way it works is that every morning the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) issues all of the credentials for the day. There are multiple levels of credentials going from Arena access that just gets you into the perimeter, to Hall Guest that lets you in the highest section up in the nosebleed seats, to Hall Special Guest that lets you into a slightly better seating section, to Hall Honored Guest, to Floor which lets you walk around where all the delegates and big politicos are, to backstage, which lets you mull around where the speakers get set up, all they way to podium which allows you access to the actual stage. Each better credential lets you also use the seats of the credential a step down. Floor and podium passes are highly prized possessions, any credentials at all are highly prized possessions, which brings me to how gathering credentials feels a little bit like being a drug dealer…

So as I said, every morning the DNCC goes to its safe in a bank (not kidding) and gets out its credentials for the day. They then give an allotment to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the National host committee, the Denver host committee, and a few other select DNC finance groups. Those groups then have their own process for determining who they provide credentials to. The biggest allotment for groups and individuals though is distributed directly by the DNCC. Every morning at 8:30 when the random office building on a random side street with a small white sign on the door opens up, people line up around the block to be allowed into the building. Once in you go to a teller to request your designated allotment. You’re never quite sure what you’ll get but it’s usually not as many as you hope. After waiting for them to record the serial numbers they bring you back to a small room to count them. For a large group this can take some time. Because the DNCC allotment is never enough the next step is to find out who of your friends and contacts are receiving credentials and are willing to part with some of them. This involves driving around town, calling contacts who direct you to call randomly placed people on the street or in hotels to go pick up their donations of two or three credentials to you. This is where the drug dealing comes in…

On Monday we received instructions to call a woman regarding a packet that could be available for us. When I called her she instructed me to go to a specific hotel, look for the bar on the left, and find a woman in the corner in a dark suite with long dark hair. I was then to ask for Amanda and be handed over a package. So I went, and it went down just that sketchily. So for the past two days I have literally run around town with my boss, in her DNCC-provided car and driver tracking down credentials, meeting people on street corners and passing packets filled with precious materials discreetly into bags. Yea, it’s sketchy! The one nice thing is that the convention decided it wanted to be green so they purchased a whole fleet of hybrid Tahoe’s to tote around politicos, DNC officials, VIPs, and somehow our VP and President.

In between these shady deals I have continued to schedule for our chairwoman and as a result have had some interesting run-ins. Today President Clinton came by to speak briefly. He and Secretary Albright walked in to the room together and I was too busy scheduling to even notice. Of course my camera broke right at the moment they were standing in the corner talking about some issue of foreign affairs! I managed to get our meetings scheduled and while running around successfully coordinated 4 meetings with ILF participants from 4 different countries at an off site location.

I also attended today an event we had planned for executive women. NDI brought together women government ministers, business executives, and other influential individuals to discuss in small groups how the US could better support women’s rights and status around the world. Madeleine Albright, Ashley Judd, Mary Robinson (former Pres of Ireland), Charity Ngilu, and many others added their insight. It was very interesting to sit at one of the tables and participate in the discussion with members of parliament and major international power brokers.

In the evenings I accompany my boss to our hospitality suite which is located in the hard perimeter of the convention hall. Because of this we have some serious logistical issues to consider. All of the buses for our participants are pre swept and manned at all times by diplomatic security agents. This allows us to pass through security without being searched or having to get off the bus. I usually enter in one of the cars so we go through the whole bomb sniffing dog, magnetometer routine. Our hospitality suite is about 300 feet from the convention center so the walk is easy. Inside we have flat screen tvs with the convention on, food, drinks, desserts, chairs, tables, and computers. People rotate in and out of the hall with our hard earned credentials and when not in the hall, just hang out and drink. At the end of the night they load on their buses and head back to their hotels. On occasion there are special side events or after parties which start around 9:30. If we’re not too tired and our feet aren’t to sore we head out. Otherwise we head back to the dorms to get a few hours of sleep and be ready to start the search all over again.

It truly is a pretty insane process but very interesting to observe. Tomorrow we’ll go for it all over again and hope for the best! So far I have gone into the hall both nights but only for the main closing speeches. Michele Obama on Monday was amazing. So eloquent, honest, straight forward and smart! Hillary tonight did an incredible job and said exactly what needed to be said to encourage party unity. Though I did see Hillary’s speech, I was a little upset because I managed to get floor passes but as I approached the Rhode Island delegation to sit with some of my contacts from the campaign the fire marshall decalred capacity and barred anyone else from entering. Luckily my boss had handed me a pass to a sky box that a donor had given me. I walked up to the small crowded room and contorted myself to see the big screens through many heads. It was still cool to feel the energy of the hall though. Let’s hope tomorrow I make it inside earlier to actually get a seat!

That’s it for the longest post ever

1 comment:

Whitney said...

In case you think nobody's reading your blog, I am. :)