- The Washington Times - Friday, August 22, 2008

Ah, political conventions, where the nation can glimpse democracy in action and attendees angle for the hottest tickets in town.

For many Democratic delegates, big donors and the press, the nightly spectacle televised from the convention floor is simply the warm-up act for the parties and top-shelf entertainers to follow.

Grammy Award-winning rapper Kanye West is scheduled to be the headliner at an invitation-only event sponsored by Irish rock star Bono’s One Campaign and the Recording Industry Association of America on Monday.

Musician Wyclef Jean gets top billing for the Rock the Vote Ballot Bash at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Country star Willie Nelson gives a concert Tuesday at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Melissa Etheridge, Cyndi Lauper and Rufus Wainwright will be onstage the same night at the Fillmore Auditorium performing in Rock to Win, sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign.

There is talk that a big music act will open for Sen. Barack Obama before he gives his acceptance speech at Invesco Field on Thursday, the closing night of the convention. Several observers have noted that Bruce Springsteen has a gap in his summer tour all next week, so the Boss just might take a rare turn as the warm-up act.

Political aides, advocacy group staffers and PR folks along for the ride have been eagerly trading party lists via spreadsheet for weeks. Social networking sites such as Facebook have become vehicles for asking friends for all the hot tickets in town.

Democrats say they hope former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner - a tech millionaire and Senate candidate chosen to keynote Tuesday evening’s activities - will host a party. His posh soiree for the netroots crowd in Las Vegas in 2006 remains legendary.

One change to the party slate at this convention is the delegation welcome parties. There were supposed to be 24 Democratic National Committee-sponsored parties at various venues such as the Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Art Museum, Denver Public Library and the Governor’s Mansion.

Instead, there will be one official party for about 5,000 Sunday at the Colorado Convention Center. There has been speculation that this was a money-saving move for the DNC, which said in the spring it was more than $15 million behind its fundraising goal.

Convention organizers insist, however, that holding one giant party is in the interest of the delegates.

“This is a way to unite them,” says host committee spokesman Chris Lopez. “It really wasn’t about the money.”

The unified party is now also a fundraiser for the nonprofit Friends of New Orleans, as it falls near the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, says convention committee spokeswoman Natalie Wyeth.

“This came from [DNC Chairman Howard] Dean’s desire to recognize the efforts of those involved with the recovery from Hurricane Katrina,” she said. “This is the perfect way for us to do that.”

That doesn’t mean there won’t be private parties for the well-heeled and well-connected. State delegations will start the day with breakfast meetings at 27 hotels and presumably close the day with slightly less buttoned-downget-togethers. Local delegation headquarters include the Downtown Crowne Plaza for the District of Columbia and Virginia delegations and the Renaissance Denver for Maryland’s delegates.

The Ritz-Carlton Denver will be the site for a four-day bash hosted by Nancy Jacobson, Democratic fundraiser and wife of pollster Mark Penn. About 150 VIPs - each of whom paid $10,000 - will get access to private events with politicos and movie stars as well as a private screening (along with stars Kevin Spacey and Laura Dern) of “Recount,” the HBO movie about the 2000 Bush-Gore presidential cliffhanger vote.

New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton may not have won the nominating battle, but she is among the honorees, along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and potential first lady Michelle Obama, at a gala hosted by Emily’s List at the Sheraton Denver marking the 88th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

Another hot ticket is expected to be the taping of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” which will take place every afternoon at the University of Denver’s Newman Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are free (reserve at www.thedailyshow.com) but expected to be hard to get.

Meanwhile, the journalistic hordes will start off the week on Saturday with a gathering for more than 15,000 people at Denver’s Elitch Gardens Theme Park, site of a similar welcoming party for delegates at the 1908 Democratic National Convention, the last time Denver hosted the Democratic convention.

Feeling more like meditating and less like partying? Catch hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons delivering the keynote address on “The Power of Yoga” at the Yoga Health Festival at City Park on Sunday. It is part of a two-day event that culminates with a party at the Church nightclub with MC Yogi.

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