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Monday, September 3, 2012

A Glimpse of Lobbyists\' Convention Exile


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Lobbyists are beside themselves: the president's public cold shoulder has exiled them to the fringes of the convention. Just how far afield?

The Party

Capturing the scene at the Democratic National Convention.

Six blocks.

That was the political purgatory where Tony and Heather Podesta, the K Street power couple, held an extravagant brunch for corporate clients and political friends on Monday.

Ms. Podesta, in a lavender dress and matching three-inch-high heels from Prada, recalled how “jarring” it was when then-candidate Obama bar red lobbyists from donating to his campaign or sponsoring convention events. She was displeased enough in Denver four years ago that she handed out scarlet-colored L pins to her spurned brethren. “It's a big tent party, why exclude us?”

The anger has subsided since, and inside the posh restaurant on the first floor of the Mint Museum on Monday, the tent felt pretty generously sized. Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina walked in and gave Mr. Podesta a firm hug; he gave her a peck on the cheek. “You were great on TV this morning, sweetie,” he gushed.

Mr. Podesta, wearing a royal blue Brioni suit and red Prada loafers (“The Pope wears Prada,” the superlobbyist said, “And so do I.”), reminded Ms. Hagan that she had “a permanent invitation” to what, to our eavesdropping ears, sounded like an exotically located vacation home.

Across the room, Ms. Podesta held court with a seersucker-suited Representative Nancy Pe losi, the minority leader. At one point, the two women compared their purple-toned shoes.

All around them, executives from Blue Shield, Wal-Mart and Novo Nordisk, the global health care giant, munched on bite-size biscuit-and-country-ham sandwiches, deviled eggs with pickled okra, duck and corn quesadillas, and bourbon molasses truffles.

No one from the Obama administration was there, not in person anyway. But the president made a cameo of sorts: The Podestas reminded guests that they had just purchased a giant painting of the president by Shepard Fairey, and donated it to the Mint Museum.

Ms. Podesta encouraged guests to head to the museum to steal a glimpse of Mr. Obama's red, white and blue face - the same one that graced the famous “Hope” posters of 2008, offering a few invitees a personal tour. As she stood in front of the towering image of him, the president suddenly did not seem so far away from the lobbyists after all.