(A longer version of this post was first published today in the Philly Clout DNC newsletter. It will be emailed around noon each day this week. Sign up here).
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Is anything about the Democratic National Convention not shrouded in secrecy?
The Ed Rendell-chaired host committee in charge of raising $60 million for the DNC has done everything in its power – including going to court – to block us (and you) from learning the source of the money until after the convention. Then, as Clout reported last week, the committee clammed up when we asked about the “Donkeys Around Town” contract awarded to a firm co-owned by Rendell’s son.
Now, we get word of a media blackout of Thursday’s big “Camden Rising”concert co-hosted by South Jersey political boss and silver-haired superdelegate George Norcross III.
The 1 p.m. concert at the 25,000-seat BB&T Pavilion will feature Lady Gaga, Lenny Kravitz and DJ Jazzy Jeff. Invitees include DNC staff, community groups, President Obama and his wife, Michelle; Hillary Clinton and her husband; President Bill Clinton; and Vice President Biden and his wife, Jill. The idea, according to a news release, is to highlight the “rapid and dramatic changes” in Camden, which have caught the attention of the New York Times, CNN, NBC Nightly News, and, ahem, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News.
PhillyVoice.com says the concert is “being billed as one of the largest entertainment events in convention history.” And Norcross sent out a blast email yesterday: “With the Philadelphia skyline in the backdrop, this is an opportunity to showcase an American city in transformation. “
Except, as of this writing, the press will not be allowed in, according to event spokeswoman Christy Setzer, who told Clout “the artists have requested that the concert be closed to media as part of their contracts.”
Umm. A secret concert? Does this sound weird to anyone else? Why wouldn’t Gaga want us there? It’s not like we’re the … paparazzi. Then again, we should’ve expected some amount of Norcross-ian intrigue when the Garden State’s millionaire hospital and insurance executive got into the concert biz.
Then, it hit us. We asked Setzer whether PhillyVoice.com would be granted access to cover the concert. She said: “PhillyVoice is the media sponsor and partner for the event." Ohhhh. So it sounds like this no-press policy applies to everyone but PhillyVoice.com. Did we mention that PhillyVoice.com’s executive director is Norcross’ daughter, Lexie Norcross? (Probably a coincidence.)
We emailed Lexie Norcross to ask whether her reporters would be covering the concert. She referred us to her father’s spokesman, Dan Fee, who said he had nothing to add to what Setzer said. A spokesman for George Norcross’ brother, U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross, who also will be attending the event, directed our inquiry to a gmail account, but said he did not know who it belonged to. Representatives for Live Nation, which is producing the concert, did not respond to requests for comment.
“Don't miss ‘Camden Rising’ concert on July 28th at the BB&T Center in Camden! Hillary For America 2016!” Camden Mayor Dana Redd tweeted on Sunday. Haven’t you heard, mayor, that we've been banned from the premises? Do you not know that when Kravitz asks if we are gonna go his way, our answer must be, “Lenny, we can’t.”
Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman Marcel Groen rubbed it in at breakfast this morning, telling delegates that he has plenty of tickets for the concert: "For a price of nothing, you can come. I have a lot of tickets." WTF.
Norcross has said the concert will be funded by Convention 2016, an account of the Washington-based General Majority PAC, which funds efforts to get Democrats elected. Last year, General Majority PAC spent more than $1 million on New Jersey's legislative races.
As for whether Hillary Clinton will attend the top-secret concert, we’ve received conflicting info, ranging from almost certainly to don’t count on it. She’ll be preparing to accept the Democratic presidential nomination Thursday, so if she does drop in, we’d bet she probably doesn’t stay long. The good news is that with Gaga and Kravitz rocking out on stage and little to no news media, Clinton can leave that clunky static noise machine at home.
Today's Signe toon
No Bernie, no Danny
It was, as they say in media and politics, a “big get.” The Pennsylvania delegation to the DNC landed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, the newest member of Team Hillary, as their Wednesday morning breakfast meeting speaker. But Vermont’s most famous socialist, whose supporters walked out of the convention Tuesday afternoon as the roll call vote secured for Hillary Clinton the Democratic nomination for president, was a last-minute scratch.
“Scheduling conflict,” Groen told his delegates and the media.
The 74-year-old’s replacement at the podium was actor Danny Glover of “Lethal Weapon” fame. And then Glover was a no-show, too. (Not the first time this has happened). Insert your own movie joke here. We’re going with the best-known line from Glover’s character, Roger Murtaugh: “I’m too old for this s---."
Will Nutter take the big stage?
Former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter is wearing a microphone on CNN during the Democratic National Convention. But will he step up to a bigger microphone -- the convention podium in the Wells Fargo Center?
The rumor rolling around in the Philly Democratic community this week is that Nutter had expected a speaking slot but received no invitation. Nutter issued a flat denial via text -- “Not true at all" -- but said only Hillary Clinton’s campaign is authorized to comment on who will speak at the convention, adding that he has not anticipated such a role.
Nutter would seem like a natural for the podium. He endorsed Clinton in 2008 while the Democratic primaries with then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama were still a very open question. He was a superdelegate supporting Clinton during the Pennsylvania presidential primary three months ago. And Nutter, who was mayor when Philadelphia submitted the application to host the convention, was floated in April as one of many possible participants in the DNC's “Narrative Project,” which called on people “outside the Beltway bubble” to help shape the party’s messaging, according to DNC emails leaked last week.
Nutter also said his CNN gig -- he was hired in February and has been appearing on the network from Philadelphia this week -- does not preclude him from speaking at the convention. A spokeswoman for the Democratic National Convention Committee declined to comment.
@phillyclout Twitter poll
Here are the results of yesterday's poll:
Hey! It's ... Geraldo
All kinds of celebs and pols have been hitting the Philly bars and restaurants we know and love. Let's go around the horn.
Sanders had lunch Tuesday at Reading Terminal Market’s Down Home Diner, which is such an appropriate lunch destination for him. We can’t fully articulate why. It just feels right. Also, can we say how much we <3 the amateur footage of Bernie chowing down? Thanks, Maeve McDermott ... hope you found your way out of that parking garage.
Some big conservative names over at Morton's The Steakhouse Tuesday night, including Rudy Giuliani, George Will, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Brit Hume. They apparently have better taste than Sean Hannity, who may or may not have gotten booed out of the Wawa on Walnut Street. Welcome to Philly, Sean. BTW, have any of youse tried Morton's new prime selections? We could really go for an American Wagyu New York Strip right now.
Geraldo Rivera (he's a celebrity, right?) was spotted at Belgium beer meccaMonk's Cafe. Fine choice, Geraldo. Lots of local pols attended John Dougherty's IBEW 98 bash at McFadden's at Citizens Bank Park, including City Councilmen Bobby Henon and Al Taubenberger, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell and "Special" Ed Neilson, the state rep turned city councilman turned state rep. Richard Lazer, the city's deputy mayor for labor, was also spotted.
La Colombe, Philly’s homegrown “third wave” coffee chain, has emerged as a leftie latte lounge during the DNC. On Monday, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein spent 90 minutes sipping a cup of chamomile tea (what does the good doctor have against caffeine?) at La Colombe’s outpost on Independence Mall. Democracy Now host Amy Goodman, looking like Willie Nelson’s sister under a straw cowboy hat, dropped by Tuesday.
We hear Debbie Wasserman Schultz, ousted as Democratic national chairwoman as a result of #DNCleak, got big applause Tuesday at a Congressional Black Caucus event at Del Frisco's, compared to loud boos the day before at a delegation breakfast.
Also: Please read this WaPo story on DNC celebrity-spotting. It's #huhlarious. And shout-out to Philly Mag's Dan McQuade, who set visiting journos straight without inflicting too much pain. "Open offer to any DNC reporter: I will literally hold your hand and take you on the Broad Street Line down to the Wells Fargo Center," McQuade tweeted.
Bonus Signe 'toon:
McGillin's shines in spotlight
We've always had a soft spot for McGillin's Olde Ale House, the city's oldest tavern and a short walk from City Hall for thirsty pols and reporters. The place has two speeds -- laid-back dark bar or crazy bro hangout. You can guess which version Clout prefers.
But not this week. It's all bright lights and big names for the DNC. Morning Joe, the MSNBC show where Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski talk about how well they know Donald Trump (unless they're denouncing him for saying something outrageous) has booked it for -- naturally -- the mornings. Biden stopped by this morning to discuss the presidential election and knock Trump on comments he has made about NATO. Biden suggested Trump is, perhaps unknowingly, playing into the hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I don’t have anything personal against Donald Trump,” Biden said. “The truth is Donald Trump knows nothing about foreign policy, nor should he, based on his background.”
The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, from Comedy Central, also interviewed Democratic politicians there Monday evening. And we’re told Frances Fitzgerald, the deputy prime minister of Ireland -- that’s tánaiste in the Irish -- stopped in for a soda and the “Red, White & Bleu Burger,” a daily special.
Staff writers William Bender, Chris Brennan, Allison Steele, Howard Gensler, Molly Eichel, Claudia Vargas, Jane Von Bergen and Sam Wood contributed to this column.