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Who's Who at the Parties' Parties

By Mary Ann Akers And Paul Kane
Thursday, August 21, 2008

A few members of Congress will play important roles at the national party nominating conventions in Denver and the Twin Cities the next two weeks, serving as everything from official bosses of the convention floor to hosts of parties for key insiders.

Feel as though Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's delegates aren't getting a fair shake? See House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.), the parliamentarian at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Want to offer amendments on social issues to the GOP platform? Check in with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), the chairman of the platform committee at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.

Some of these lawmakers hope their jobs end up being largely ceremonial -- Hoyer really doesn't want to referee a floor fight involving Clinton supporters -- but they will be key players nonetheless. Here's a rundown of members to watch over the next two weeks, starting with the Democratic convention on Monday:

Democrats Running Denver

· House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.): Despite the intense media focus on Clinton and her supporters, the woman with the most official power in Denver is Pelosi. She's the chairwoman of the convention, a post that makes her overseer of the week's activities inside the Pepsi Center.

Pelosi -- who was a top staffer for the 1984 convention in San Francisco -- recently joked to reporters that her chairmanship was "ceremonial." She said she's just trying to let staffers do their jobs without getting in the way. But Pelosi will be a semi-frequent presence in the convention hall, sometimes serving as emcee, along with Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.

Beyond her day job, Pelosi may just be the belle of the late-night party circuit.

The speaker is slated to be serenaded on opening night of the convention by none other than Tony Bennett at the after-hours "Salute to Speaker Nancy Pelosi" following the day's proceedings. James Taylor and soul singer John Legend also are scheduled to perform. The party is hosted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

On Wednesday, Pelosi is scheduled to host a reception honoring women in Congress. Broadway star Idina Menzel is slated to perform at that event.

· Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.): Lacking any official title, Reid will host fundraising events all week for Senate Democrats as part of their drive toward a filibuster-proof majority of 60 seats. Reid also has a nice speaking slot: 8 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday. While an aide said his speech will focus on energy independence as a national security issue, Reid also may feel inclined to validate the political bona fides of the vice presidential nominee, who will speak two hours later. Several of the supposed finalists to be Barack Obama's running mate are senators in Reid's caucus.

· Hoyer: As parliamentarian, the Prince George's County lawmaker is in charge of making sure the business on the floor runs smoothly. Hoyer also must establish procedures to handle reports from delegates and, as an aide put it, "appeals to the decisions of the chair."

Translation: If Clinton supporters feel slighted and file official complaints, Hoyer will have his hands full.

· Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin and Rep. Rahm Emanuel: These Illinois Democrats are co-hosting a "Chicago Night" party Tuesday at the Irish pub Fado. Why is this party so important? Because it's likely to be filled with key Land of Lincoln Democrats who've known Obama a lot longer than anyone else in Denver -- the folks who became supporters back when Obama was a no-name state senator in a hotly contested Democratic primary for a U.S. Senate seat in 2004.

If Obama were to win in November, Durbin and Emanuel -- his closest allies on the Hill -- probably would serve as an early-warning system should he encounter trouble with congressional Democrats.

Republicans Ruling the Twin Cities

· Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.): He's got the somewhat odd title of "temporary chairman" of the GOP convention. That's because the "permanent chairman" is House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio). Basically, the two leaders will co-chair the convention, but every four years the "temporary" and "permanent" title flip between the GOP's House and Senate leaders.

McConnell also is chairman of the Kentucky delegation, continuing his long-standing status as Bluegrass State Republicans' party boss.

McConnell, who is up for reelection in November, will get to speak on the floor at a time yet to be determined. But he did not receive one of the top prime-time slots, according to the speaking lineups announced by the Republican National Committee yesterday.

· Boehner: His clout at the quadrennial conventions has grown ever since he launched nightly warehouse parties at the GOP convention in San Diego in 1996. Boehner has not been officially associated with the parties since that year. But they have continued every four years under the banner of Warehouse Productions, run by lobbyists who are considered close to Boehner.

The show goes on this year with nightly parties in downtown Minneapolis, complete with performances by Boehner's favorite band, Duck Soup, a Texas-based group that is a regular presence at parties for Professional Golf Association tour events.

· McCarthy and Sen. Richard Burr (N.C.): This pair of Generation Next Republicans is running the platform committee, which often serves as the scene of internal party disputes on issues such as abortion rights. McCarthy, 43, is a freshman House member and Burr, 52, is a freshman senator, but both are considered policy wonks in their respective GOP conferences.

To fully open up the process, they started a Web site that serves as an electronic platform suggestion box. In an interview last month with washingtonpost.com's Ben Pershing, McCarthy said his goal was to create a platform that is "shorter, more principled and forward-looking." He added: "I think the vast majority of Republicans will like the outcome. That's my goal."

· Former congressman Tom DeLay (Tex.): Yep, the onetime House majority leader is gone but nowhere near forgotten. He retired in June 2006 amid numerous investigations, but what would a GOP convention be without DeLay?

In 2000 he leased a fleet of railroad cars and parked them outside Philadelphia's Wachovia Center for GOP members of Congress to use as getaway suites from the hustle and bustle of the convention floor. In 2004, he tried to lease a cruise ship and dock it close to New York City's Madison Square Garden as a base of operations for House Republicans, until questions arose about the image of lawmakers staying on their own ship instead of in the host city.

So on Sept. 1, convention kickoff night, DeLay's new organization -- the Coalition for a Conservative Majority -- is having one of the more exclusive parties of the week at the Aqua Club in Minneapolis. The event, featuring the rock band Smash Mouth, is a fundraiser for DeLay's organization and its party co-host, Citizens United. Private VIP rooms with "premium bars and bottle service" are available for the largest corporate donors.

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