There are hundreds of public events and parties next week throughout Philadelphia for every person with pretty much every interest. But there’s a second layer to party time in Philadelphia — and you’re probably not invited.
Most large brands and corporations either attend or, in many cases, host some of the most exclusive parties at presidential conventions that feature top politicians, business leaders (read: big donors) and even the occasional celebrity. They’re cocktail parties held in some of the city’s hottest restaurants and event spaces. You know, the ones that’ll be approved to stay open past 2 a.m. for only the week of the Convention.
Twitter will have one. Google will have one. MTV will have one. Top media companies, tech giants and local corporations are hosting them. And figuring out where and when these invite-only parties take place is about as easy as finding Donald Trump’s tax returns.
Where the party at?
For these exclusive parties, the DNC is where it’s at. Sure, corporations host events at the Republican National Convention. There was even some drama at an exclusive BuzzFeed party on a hotel roof. But the Republicans are traditionally a tamer bunch than the Dems, who often attract a younger crowd and basically all of Hollywood. (Or maybe the GOP is too busy in their hotel rooms.)
So what’s on tap for this year’s convention in Philly? Hard to say at this point. Sources say Twitter and Google will both have headquarters set up in Philadelphia, as Google did during the 2012 DNC in Charlotte, N.C. MTV is hosting an event, and top political media companies like POLITICO and The Hill will host both open and closed events during convention week.
Like the Convention itself, they’ll be hard to get into if you don’t have an invite.
For example, on Monday, the CEO of AOL, the CEO of Discover, the head of the American Bankers Association and more will schmooze at the Arts Ballroom during a closed event with top Democrats like Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania.
The very next day, “baseball legends” will be on-hand at Citizen’s Bank Park to meet Democrats from the House and Senate Energy and Commerce Committees. At the American Jewish History Museum, Gloria Steinem will be attending an event with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, of Connecticut, hosted by Cosmopolitan and the Center for Reproductive Rights.
A few hours later at The Little Lion Restaurant in Old City, funnyman Judd Apatow will attend a (closed) party with business leaders benefitting senators and a number of Congresscritters.
A good way to figure out where these big shindigs are going down? One Democratic party-watcher offers this hint: Look at the bars and restaurants that are granted permits to stay open past 2 a.m. The Liquor Control Board has only released a few locations so far that have been granted special permits, and none of them (yet) are open past 2 a.m. They include places like Citizen’s Bank Park, the Art Museum, the Franklin Institute and the Kimmel Center.
Meanwhile, a lot of Philadelphia spaces have already been rented out on certain nights. Philly.com reported McClatchy (owner of the Miami Herald) rented out La Peg on Columbus Boulevard for the entire convention. CBS and The Atlantic are holding a number of events and parties at Field House.
Most of the Starr and Garces-owned restaurants will be closed down for private events at differing times throughout the week, as will event spaces like 2 Commerce Square where Politico is parking for the week.
The politicians are getting in on the hosting, too. Vice President Biden is apparently planning a shindig of his own at Parc on Rittenhouse Square, Nancy Pelosi’s hosting several events, Mayor Jim Kenney’s reportedly throwing a fundraiser and Councilman Kenyatta Johnson will be with state Rep. Jordan Harris on a yacht.
Bill Clinton is holding an ultra-exclusive lunch Tuesday at Reading Terminal Market, and Gov. Tom Wolf is guest DJ’ing an event on the roof of T.G.I. Friday’s on the Parkway on Thursday evening. Pols like Councilwoman Cherelle Parker and State Reps. Donna Bullock and Joanna McClinton will also DJ.
And after all that? Clinton will accept the nomination Thursday night and scoot off directly to a fundraising party at the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts. Good luck getting in.
Political Party Time
There’s one additional way to track political parties during the DNC in Philly. That’s through the Sunlight Foundation’s tracking tool, called “Political Party Time.”(Follow them on Twitter for updates during the Convention.) The D.C.-based nonprofit created the tool in 2008 to solicit private party invitations from journalists, aides, lobbyists and others who wanted there to be a little more sunshine on the political fundraising process.
“The public deserves to know a little bit more about these fundraising parties that serve as a gathering point for influence and access as well as the day-to-day grind that senators and state elected officials go through,” said Josh Stewart, a Sunlight Foundation spokesman.
Some team members on the foundation’s communications team spend about half their time curating invitations that are anonymously sent to them year-round. And convention time presents a new challenge for them: These parties — that often aren’t even technically fundraisers — are VIP-access only and very hard to get to.
For example, at the RNC this week, J.P. Morgan and The Hill newspaper are hosting an event geared toward “congressional staffers.” It’s not a fundraiser, it’s more or a less a happy hour. Other private events advertise “surprise speakers” who could be anyone from top pols to business leaders. Being in the business of tracking parties during these times isn’t easy.
When they do find a party, they upload it to their database — there were 400 during the DNC in 2012 — and will tweet about it if it’s a large event featuring a presidential candidate or a big celebrity, cough, Snoop Dogg.
“When it comes to Political Party Time, a lot of people genuinely get why it’s important to make these things a little more transparent,” Stewart said. “We’re going to Cleveland and Philly. We’ll be talking about the fundraising parties, the cocktail parties, sending various dispatches and contributing to the conversation.”