by ELIZABETH FLOCK, US News
For decades, a large part of the allure of political conventions was the parties. In recent years, that's gotten complicated. The economy is bad, but more than that, the optics are bad. A lobbyist and congressman cozying up over a martini can be recorded on an iPhone and uploaded to the Internet within seconds.
At this year's conventions, two nonprofits say they're making it their goal to catch those in bed together who shouldn't be.
Armed with cameras and the press, the Sunlight Foundation and Public Citizen plan to crash convention parties in a double-teaming effort.
The Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to increasing transparency and accountability in politics, will focus on discovering instances of corporate influence peddling, and will be tracking the convention parties at its site Political Party Time.
Public Citizen, a consumer rights advocacy group, will focus on violators of an ethics rule put in place in 2007 that prevents lobbying organizations from hosting an event honoring a lawmaker.
Together, the groups plan to "bird-dog" partygoers, a term used to mean forcing politicians to address an issue instead of running from it, just as a bird dog persistently hunts and retrieves a bird.
In 2008, a similar effort at the conventions successfully shut down a party of House freshman Democrats. "They were just elected on the ethics platform," Craig Holman of Public Citizen tells Whispers. "And then they had a party in violation of ethics rules. It was sponsored by a lobbying entity, and honoring the freshman Democrats." [MORE]