Maryland Comptroller Louis Goldstein, D.C. Auditor Otis Troupe, Virginia Comptroller Edward Mazur and 200 other state financial officers are headed for Nashville this weekend for four days of seminars, dinners, theater, dancing and Tennessee whiskey.
Picking up the tab for the entertainment will be E.F. Hutton, Bank of America, Dean Witter Reynolds and other accounting firms, banks and brokerage houses that hope to keep doing business with these officials.
The highlight on the agenda is the Bluegrass Festival, a tour of the local whiskey distillery, courtesy of Jack Daniels Inc., followed by a catfish fry and open bar.
The setting for this good cheer is the annual convention of the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers. For a $100 registration fee (plus $25 for spouses and children), the financial officers will hear what federal and private experts have to say on such topics as block grant auditing, equity options and municipal bond markets.
But the state association has a limited budget. So 15 major corporations have offered to provide the frills, as most have done in recent years.
"They are selling their business," said Frank Greathouse, Tennessee's state auditor and host for this year's conference. "These are the people the states have to do business with. They have an investment in state government and an interest in how it operates. I guess you could consider it an advertising technique for them."
Goldstein said the state of Maryland would pay for him and two aides to attend the convention. He said he is taking his wife at his own expense.
"You meet the leading accounting firms; you meet the people who buy the bonds," Goldstein said. But he said the receptions "don't influence me one way or another. We don't show them any favoritism."
Greathouse said his state uses the First Boston Corp. to sell housing bonds. First Boston is hosting a reception at the Opryland Hotel, while Citibank is paying for the dinner that follows.
In similar fashion, E.F. Hutton is sponsoring a night at the Grand Ol' Opry. Merrill Lynch will provide an evening of entertainment and dancing. Arthur Young & Co. will buy breakfast, Morgan Guaranty Trust will pay for lunch and Salomon Brothers will put on a banquet.
Each company that sponsors a reception gets to send its executives to the conference without paying a $300 fee for each guest, Greathouse said.
Charles Brophy, a spokesman for Salomon Brothers, said "the competition is intense" in bidding for bond issues. "Entertainment should not be considered a factor," he said. "If I took you out for lunch, enjoyable as it may be, it would never cross my mind that it would influence you in my favor."