GOP not in partying mood for Cleveland

GOP not in partying mood for Cleveland
© Greg Nash

Republicans won’t be in a partying mood when they gather in Cleveland next week to nominate Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpA better VA, with mental health services, is essential for America's veterans Pelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Trump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit MORE for president.

GOP aides and lobbyists say there has been a big drop-off in invitations, compared with past presidential conventions, with many establishment Republicans and corporations shunning the event.

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“I just had a meeting with prominent political Republicans, and they were all in the same boat in saying, ‘Four years ago, eight years ago at this point in time you would have received ton of invitations for different things. This time I’ve gotten none,’ ” said a Republican strategist for a major trade association.

The angry populist wave that fueled Trump’s rise has scared corporations away from Cleveland, with many afraid to associate their brands with his controversial — and unpredictable — style of politics.

The shooting of 12 police officers, five fatally, during a protest in Dallas last week underscored for many Republicans and potential corporate sponsors the possibility for unrest in Cleveland.

That possibility was apparent in May, when anti-Trump protesters lit fires, threw rocks and destroyed property outside Albuquerque’s convention center during one of the candidate’s speeches in New Mexico.

Aside from fears about violent protests, many Republican lobbyists are staying away from Cleveland because the Trump campaign has done little to recruit them as supporters or fundraisers.

“I am not going to Cleveland. It’s the first convention I’ve missed in so long that I can’t remember, and I’m not alone in that regard,” said a prominent Republican lobbyist who has served as a major fundraiser for past GOP presidential nominees.

“From the event or party perspective, our inbox should be reasonably full of invitations to various events. I think I’ve received one invitation,” said the source, who declined to speak on the record because he worried about becoming a target of Trump’s on Twitter.

“It’s Trump. There are an awful lot of folks who do not want to be associated with the Trump campaign or Trump’s nomination,” he said.

Several major corporations are skipping Cleveland because of worries about appearing supportive of Trump, who has angered Hispanics, Muslims and women with his rhetoric.

Bloomberg News reported last month that Wells Fargo, UPS, JPMorgan Chase, Ford and Motorola would not sponsor this year’s Republican National Convention despite sponsoring the event in 2012, when former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was the presidential nominee.

Since then, other companies, including Apple and HP, have also decided to stay away after coming under pressure from activists groups.

Many of the companies and firms that will be on hand for the convention have decided to lay low by not hosting parties.

“Corporate brands are always worried about any misperceptions that may happen as a result of either convention, but particularly with what’s going on between Dallas and Trump,” said Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist who worked on Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainClimate change is a GOP issue, too It's Joe Biden's 2020 presidential nomination to lose Meghan McCain on Pelosi-Trump feud: 'Put this crap aside' and 'work together for America' MORE’s (R-Ariz.) 2008 presidential campaign.

But just because corporations won’t be plastering their logos on sponsored parties doesn’t mean they won’t have a presence in Cleveland.

“At the same time, even though you’re not seeing their specific names on stuff like you’ve seen in the past, they’re going to be right there,” O’Connell said. “All they’re doing is saying, ‘We’re not part of it,’ but that doesn’t mean they don’t want a seat at the table and the ability to shape policy.”

Another damper on the party scene was the uncertainty leading up to the convention over who would be the nominee. Even after Trump appeared to clinch the nomination, rumors swirled of a delegate revolt and an attempt to name someone else as the party’s standard-bearer.

“I think it has as much to do with the lead time to plan parties and events and the uncertainty leading up to this convention,” said Tom Ingram, founder of The Ingram Group, a political and business consulting firm.

He noted that the primaries started later this year than in past presidential cycles and that the conventions are earlier, in mid-July instead of August or September.

But he admitted that uncertainty about Trump is also a factor.

“You have some businesses, just like you’ve got a lot of Republicans right now, who are still a little uneasy about the presumptive nominee and uncertain about how they want to relate to him,” he said.

That’s not to say the week will be completely bereft of good times. Some trade associations and companies are hosting lavish events to keep delegates, presidential campaign workers, congressional aides and lobbyists entertained. 

The Distilled Spirits Council and The Wall Street Journal will host a party to “Celebrate the Spirits of Cleveland” on Monday night. 

The legendary “Warehouse Party,” long associated with former Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Trump adviser expected to leave White House, join Juul The Hill's 12:30 Report: McGahn inflames Dem divisions on impeachment MORE (R-Ohio), is scheduled for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights.

Facebook, Microsoft, Pfizer, New Balance and Quicken Loans will sponsor a brunch at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Wednesday.

FirstEnergy, Southern Co., TimkenSteel and Fluor will host a reception Tuesday evening; Anheuser-Busch will host a beer garden on Wednesday afternoon; and the American Petroleum Institute will host a concert Wednesday evening.

And AT&T will host a late-night party with the California delegation on Wednesday and a thank-you party with the Cleveland host committee on Thursday night.