Despite denials, RNC was really involved in concert planning with AAN at Tampa convention

rnc-tampaThis is a followup to what I wrote Monday – RNC concert sponsors “Starstruck” by Lady Gaga in outreach effort.

Be sure to read Naked DC’s version of this story as well.

The article in The Washington Examiner ( “Lady Gaga turned down $1 million to perform during RNC” ) that kicked all this coverage off has been edited to include the following:

“Editors Note: Neither Cater America LLC nor American Action Network are connected to or affliated with the Republican National Convention.”

I hadn’t realized that was ever in question honestly.

The article (and all subsequent coverage including my piece) clearly states that the concerts were being sponsored by American Action Network and arranged by Cater America LLC. The details came out in documents related to litigation brought by AAN against Cater America and its principal, Rob Jennings.

After the above editor’s note was added to the Examiner story, Sean Spicer of the Republican National Committee sent out a release that included a statement from the RNC as well as one from AAN.

Here’s the April 3 statement on GOP.com, headlined as “RNC was not Gaga for Gaga”:

A story in yesterday’s Washington Examiner unfortunately left many people with the impression that the RNC had asked Lady Gaga and other artists to play at the Republican National Convention. To be clear, the RNC neither asked, offered, thought of or ever considered the idea of Lady Gaga performing at our convention. And clearly, we didn’t offer a million dollars

The Examiner updated the story by adding an Editor’s Note clarifying that AAN is not connected to the RNC

The story is actually referencing an event by American Action Network, an independent group that is no way affiliated or connected to the Republican National Committee or Republican Convention.

AAN Response:

“In planning for our fundraiser in Tampa, e-mails we’re exchanged between AAN fundraising staff and outside vendors exploring various performance options. AAN is an independent group and is no way affiliated with or connected to the RNC nor was the RNC ever privy to these internal discussions. We considered some acts and didn’t seriously consider others, but we were ultimately happy with a great Kid Rock concert. Our events were independent from the official convention and the RNC.” – Dan Conston, Communications Director, American Action Network ( 610-220-3687 (c))

Naked DC responded to this statement:

You can rest easy now, knowing that, despite their best efforts, the RNC will remain stubbornly out of touch with modern America, and instead of wasting your hard-earned money, which you donated into their safe-keeping, on mega-star musical performances, they will continue to spend that cash supporting quality GOP candidates, like Mark Sanford.

The RNC/AAN statement generally fleshes out the same information contained in the one-sentence editor’s note added to the original article. However, there’s a big diference between that and what actually happened. Note that the AAN statement says, “e-mails we’re exchanged between AAN fundraising staff and outside vendors exploring various performance options. AAN is an independent group and is no way affiliated with or connected to the RNC nor was the RNC ever privy to these internal discussions.”

The part where AAN says “nor was the RNC ever privy to these internal discussions” is demonstrably FALSE.

I first noticed in AtlanticWire’s story on this topic that one of the persons listed in the fields of email recipients discussing Lady Gaga included an email address at the gopconvention2012.com domain. This was the domain name the RNC used for the convention website and emails. The name with that email address is Jason Osborne, and he was the Director of External Affairs for the convention.

This initially confirmed for me that there was RNC coordination with AAN for the concerts. The other court documents confirm this (these documents are all embedded below.) Groups in DC who all have external affairs people regularly do coordination with other groups on events like this, otherwise why would you have someone handling “external affairs”?

In the email exchanges in the document labeled AAN Confirms 250K…. below, there is an email exchange about getting Pitbull or Gloria Estefan that Jason Osborne participates in. Pete Meachum of AAN decided not to get Gloria Estefan because of her support for Obama and when there were discussions about other acts including Pitbull, Meachum said that if Osborne could get the lot they wanted for the concerts, that he would have gorgeous women carry him in on a litter, shower him with champagne, and put rose petals at his feet. Osborne replied that he was working on locations and that he was looking forward to the litter.

In the Defendants’ Reply Brief in Support of Their Motion to Dismiss or Transfer (Cater – Reply in Support of Mot. to Dismiss below), there’s a tidbit that American Action Network’s Pete Meachum had said that AAN hired Cater (Rob Jennings’ company) because of the recommendation of Jason Osborne:

Further, during a December 20, 2011 meeting, Mr. Meachum stated that he had already
spoken with Jason Osborne, the then-Director of External Affairs for the Convention’s
Committee on Arrangements in Tampa, Florida, and that Mr. Osborne suggested that Plaintiff
work with Cater given the scope and nature of Plaintiff’s convention plans

The above information is confirmed in the below document referred to as Exhibit A.

Meachum also says in the Reply document:

I think AAN brings to you enough of a financial commitment to anchor the event to give you a lot of confidence locking down talent and begin getting bids for building out the site. I also think this gives Jason [Osborne] a lot of relief in terms of additional space near the arena… We need to lock in the nights for the wrap party and what the marquis concert night will be with Jason [Osborne]. Elizabeth[Verrill], looking over our levels, I think that we don’t need to re-do the whole package as opposed to add a weeklong sponsorship for exclusive pavilion space.Great work so far Rob and Julie,we owe a big thanks to Jason for connecting us.
As I said in my original piece the other day:
According to the article, Cater America plans a countersuit for $500,000 for expenses that included Journey’s performance. Additionally, Cater America is alleging that AAN officials including President Brian Walsh and former development director Pete Meachum (now chief of staff for Rep. Sean Duffy) were giving away tickets to staffers of the National Republican Congressional Committee. This reportedly would put AAN’s non-profit status at risk, based on the doctrine of personal (or private) inurement.
The original Examiner article confirms the issues at play above:
Cater America also contends AAN violated an agreement not to give away tickets. National Republican Congressional Committee Executive Director Guy Harrison was among the NRCC staff who attended a Kid Rock concert put on by Cater America on Aug. 29. American Action Network spokesman Dan Conston told The Washington Examiner that AAN “invited some close personal friends from nongovernmental organizations on a personal basis.”
The document below referred to as AAN Emails also shows that AAN was selling packages for the convention that included convention credentials (more evidence of collaboration with the RNC.)
The acts discussed and not hired included: Lady Gaga, Pitbull, Gloria Estefan, Dolly Parton, Kelly Clarkson, The Indigo Girls, Melissa Etheridge, and Pedrito Martinez. Lynyrd Skynyrd was cancelled due to Hurricane Isaac (a fact mentioned in my original piece) and Journey also performed.

All of the above facts show that the RNC didn’t front the $1 million for the offer to Lady Gaga and they are indeed a separate group from American Action Network. However, AAN’s claims that no one in the RNC was privy to internal discussions are completely false.

Update:  A Washington Examiner story (“Emails: Despite denials, RNC knew of $1 million effort to hire Gaga for convention”) confirms the basics of the above information.

AAN Confirms 250k Pitbull Offer Plus Venue JAN 17 2012 by Jeff Quinton

Cater – Opp’n to Mot. for Limited Discovery (Final) by Jeff Quinton

Cater – Reply in Support of Mot. to Dismiss by Jeff Quinton

Cater – Ex. A to Reply by Jeff Quinton

Cater – Ex. B to Reply by Jeff Quinton

Cater – Ex. C to Reply by Jeff Quinton

AAN Emails by Jeff Quinton

Cross-posted at The Quinton Report.

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Jeff Quinton

Jeff Quinton is an award-winning blogger who has been aggregating and blogging since 1998. He has worked as a reporter, in government, and as a communications professional in DC.

Quinton is a native South Carolinian who has lived in Baltimore for 8 years. He is a recent convert to the Catholic Church and is active in the Knights of Columbus.

Quinton is a veteran who served as an intelligence analyst in the Army National Guard. He is also an Eagle Scout.