|SETTING THE STAGE|
August 10 , 2000
JEFFREY KAYE: LA Staples Center is where the official business of Democrats gets done next week. But this week, as technicians wound up their elaborate preparations inside, the stage was also being set outside, as planners, protesters, politicians and corporate sponsors all jockeyed for their place in the media spotlight.
TERRY McAULIFFE, Chairman, Democratic Convention: We're out here in the sunshine. We're on the beach. We have got the ocean behind us which Al Gore has helped protect.
JEFFREY KAYE: After a beach press conference, there was Terry McAuliffe, Democratic Party fund- raiser and chief and head of the party's convention getting on and falling off a surf board in the company of a champion surfer for Gore. Across town, there were protesters painting signs and making huge puppets to help get their points across.
ESTHER PORTILLO, Teacher: A gap between rich and poor, such a as universal health care; that should be established.
JEFFREY KAYE: To stage the convention, planners have raised $48 million in cash, goods and services. Most of the contributions have come from private donors -- some from the city of Los Angeles. That's in addition to the $13 million provided by the federal government, the same amount of tax money that went to the Republican convention. As Los Angeles paints, cleans up, boards up, fences off, and prepares to face the onslaught of next week's four-day extravaganza, host committee chair Eli Broad, a billionaire insurance mogul, says his own focus is on events outside than inside the convention hall.
ELI BROAD: I think it is more important what goes on in staples hall itself.
JEFFREY KAYE: Why?
ELI BROAD: Because, again, it is the ability to show people what Los Angeles is about. And hopefully it will increase cultural tourism, increase people that want to do business here.
JEFFREY KAYE: And for the businesses themselves, they'll be -- I mean the -- thing is an important factor.
ELI BROAD: Sure, it is.
JEFFREY KAYE: Restaurants, hotels, movie studios, museums and private homes around Los Angeles are booked for more than 300 parties receptions and fund-raisers that will take place during the convention week.
ELI BROAD: Here is this great gala that they are going to have for the president, I believe, it is Saturday at someone's residence.
JEFFREY KAYE: Broad has a three-inch binder of the invitations he has received.
ELI BROAD: I mean, you've got, you know, Paul Anka, Michael Bolton, Natalie Cole, Diana Ross.
JEFFREY KAYE: What will it take to get him?
ELI BROAD: Well, this does cost, and I forgot what it is. I think they've got tickets from $1,000 to $20,000 each.
SPOKESPERSON: Don't forget to add lots of cilantro to that one.
JEFFREY KAYE: Local companies used to the expensive tastes of Hollywood's glitterati are getting ready to accommodate political celebrities and their patrons. Mary Micucchi's "Along Comes Mary Production" caters and plans lavish parties.
MARY MICUCCHI, Along Comes Mary Productions: Through the course of the week, I would say we'll be employing close to a thousand people. That's a lot of people -- actually more than that -- probably by the time it is all said and done, close to 1500.
JEFFREY KAYE: She estimates her company will serve 12,000 people convention week. Event 411.com will cater to less than half that number.
JANICE WHIFFEN, Vent411.com, Inc.: It is really the only type of event planning tool that enables to you communicate with such large groups of people at one time.
JEFFREY KAYE: The company is providing software for convention delegates and planners to use free of charge. Theirs is one of many non-monetary contributions businesses are making in the hopes the exposure will help them. Company CEO Steven Koltai believes the convention is worth more than a thousand TV commercials.
JEFFREY KAYE: Once they have seen, once they have used your tools here...
STEVEN KOLTAI: Right.
JEFFREY KAYE: The idea is what, they'll go home and they'll go --
STEVEN KOLTAI: They'll go back to their respective walks of life and say hey, we ought to have an event planning and coordinating Web site for this particular event.
JEFFREY KAYE: And call you?
STEVEN KOLTAI: And call us.
JEFFREY KAYE: The intersection of influence money and politics is emerging as a flash point of controversy here in Los Angeles as it was at last week's Republican convention in Philadelphia. But Broad, who donates generously to both Republicans and Democrats, makes no apology.
ELI BROAD: Clearly, large contributors have much easier access to elected officials than non-contributors. But, I'm not sure that you get a lot out of it. Certainly, giving money to host committee, doesn't get you very far. If you want to have greater access, you give it directly to elected officials and their campaigns. You give it to the Democratic National Committee and likewise. You can go so far as to say those that give have greater access. Access to elected official than those that don't give.
JEFFREY KAYE: As it was in Philadelphia, the power of corporate patrons will be a rallying point for protesters. Garrick Ruiz, a spokesperson for one of the many desperate groups planning to demonstrate, says that's one issue that unites the disaffected.
GARRICK RUIZ, Protest Organizer: With the current state of things, what we see is that corporations and people with large amounts of money are able to influence politicians by giving them campaign contributions, and through sort of revolving door policies of giving politicians jobs after they get out of office, and they are able to have a lot of influence this way.
JEFFREY KAYE: A former department store just west of downtown, organizers are gathering to plan demonstrations with a different theme for each day: Unity, equality, justice, and peace. Some hope to embarrass the Democrats by bringing attention to a labor dispute at a resort beach hotels with ties to Jonathan Tish, a prominent contributor to Vice President Al Gore. Some unions planned demonstrations outside the convention, although most labor leaders have agreed not to protest. Demonstrators who will be on the streets say Democrats have ignored their pleas to put social issues above profit.
GARRICK RUIZ: The reality is that the policies of the Democrats have not been supportive of people in this country, of common people in this country, nor have they been supportive of people around the world.
JEFFREY KAYE: But the chairman of the Democratic National Convention, Terry McAuliffe, says the protesters concerns will be addressed inside the convention hall.
TERRY McAULIFFE: We have always talked about issues in the Democratic Party, be it health care, the economy, Social Security, the environment crime, all of those key issues out there that affect America's working families, we're going to talk about, in fact. But certainly we'll be engaged with demonstrators. You have to walk right by them to get into the Staples Center.
JEFFREY KAYE: A parking lot across the street from staples has been designated a main protest area. Demonstrators plan several marches a day to the site. But many businesses in the neighborhood are fearful of violence and are boarding up their windows. Many shops in the jewelry district are closing for the week. As seen in this Los Angeles Police Department video, law enforcement has been preparing to deal with protesters. At the same time, transporting 300 bus loads of conventioneers across LA's sprawling geography creates major challenges for police, as does the fact that protest sites could be far and wide, according to police commander David Kalish.
COMMANDER DAVID KALISH: In Philadelphia, the convention was actually held outside of downtown, with water on one side, and a Navy base on the other. Here, our convention is right in the middle of a living, breathing, vibrant city, that adds to the complexity of our responsibilities to ensure public safety and maintain public order.
JEFFREY KAYE: The Department has been quietly gathering intelligence information about protesters, prompting a threatened lawsuit. Convention related festivities and protests start this Saturday.