AT&T thanks the Blue Dog Democrats with a lavish party

The nation's most influential faction in Congress meets with one of its most significant benefactors at the convention -- and forcibly bars the press and public from knowing what it's doing.

Topics: Washington, D.C.,

(updated below (with video added) – Update II)

Last night in Denver, at the Mile High Station — next to Invesco Stadium, where Barack Obama will address a crowd of 30,000 people on Thursday night — AT&T threw a lavish, private party for Blue Dog House Democrats, virtually all of whom blindly support whatever legislation the telecom industry demands and who also, specifically, led the way this July in immunizing AT&T and other telecoms from the consequences for their illegal participation in the Bush administration’s warrantless spying program. Matt Stoller has one of the listings for the party here.

Armed with full-scale Convention press credentials issued by the DNC, I went — along with Firedoglake’s Jane Hamsher, John Amato, Stoller and others — in order to cover the event, interview the attendees, and videotape the festivities. There was a wall of private security deployed around the building, and after asking where the press entrance was, we were told by the security officials, after they consulted with event organizers, that the press was barred from the event, and that only those with invitations could enter — notwithstanding the fact that what was taking place in side was a meeting between one of the nation’s largest corporations and the numerous members of the most influential elected faction in Congress. As a result, we stood in front of the entrance and began videotaping and trying to interview the parade of Blue Dog Representatives, AT&T executives, assorted lobbyists and delegates who pulled up in rented limousines, chauffeured cars, and SUVs in order to find out who was attending and why AT&T would be throwing such a lavish party for the Blue Dog members of Congress.

Amazingly, not a single one of the 25-30 people we tried to interview would speak to us about who they were, how they got invited, what the party’s purpose was, why they were attending, etc. One attendee said he was with an “energy company,” and the other confessed she was affiliated with a “trade association,” but that was the full extent of their willingness to describe themselves or this event. It was as though they knew they’re part of a filthy and deeply corrupt process and were ashamed of — or at least eager to conceal — their involvement in it. After just a few minutes, the private security teams demanded that we leave, and when we refused and continued to stand in front trying to interview the reticent attendees, the Denver Police forced us to move further and further away until finally we were unable to approach any more of the arriving guests.

It was really the perfect symbol for how the Beltway political system functions — those who dictate the nation’s laws (the largest corporations and their lobbyists) cavorting in total secrecy with those who are elected to write those laws (members of Congress), while completely prohibiting the public from having any access to and knowledge of — let alone involvement in — what they are doing. And all of this was arranged by the corporation — AT&T — that is paying for a substantial part of the Democratic National Convention with millions upon millions of dollars, which just received an extraordinary gift of retroactive amnesty from the Congress controlled by that party, whose logo is splattered throughout the city wherever the DNC logo appears — virtually attached to it — all taking place next to the stadium where the Democratic presidential nominee, claiming he will cleanse the Beltway of corporate and lobbying influences, will accept the nomination on Thursday night.

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The only other media which even attempted to cover the AT&T/Blue Dog event was Democracy Now — they were also barred from entering. I was on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman this morning to discuss what happened. They put together a 5-minute video montage, including our efforts to enter the event and interview the guests, which they broadcast before my segment. The video and my segment can be seen and/or heard here — it begins at the 1:00 mark. A transcript will be posted shortly.

Jane Hamsher also filmed some of what transpired, and Salon has created our own video of last night, including the efforts by the private security teams and Denver Police to prevent us from standing on public property to interview the arriving members of Congress and AT&T executives and lobbyists. That will be posted shortly. There’s nothing unusual about this event — other than that it was more forcibly private than most and just a tad more brazenly sleazy. The democracy-themed stagecraft inside the Convention is for public television consumption, but secret little events of this sort are why people are really here. Just as is true in Washington, this is where — and how and by whom — the business of our Government is conducted.

UPDATE: Here is the video from last night’s festivities, with our attempt to interview various attendees and interactions with the private security forces and Police — filmed by Jane Hamsher and edited by Salon‘s Caitlin Shamberg:

UPDATE II: The transcript for the Democracy Now segment I did this morning, preceded by the video they produced, is now here.

Glenn Greenwald
Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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