Hundreds of Capitol insiders, including legislators, staffers and lobbyists are expected to attend Thursday night’s Back to Session Bash, a large-scale party financed by special interests including tobacco, alcohol and gambling groups.
The 10th annual event, to be held at The Park nightclub in Sacramento, costs $150,000 to put on and features entertainment by the hip-hop group Naughty by Nature, as well as food, a tequila bar, a rum tiki hut, premium Scotch tasting, a cigar bar and a Korean taco bar, according to David Quintana, a lobbyist whose clients including the California Tribal Business Alliance, a major sponsor of the event.
Other sponsors include the tobacco firm R.J. Reynolds, the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S, the California Building Industry Assn. and the California State Council of Laborers. About 1,700 people are expected to attend, a big increase from the 270 people who attended the first bash 10 years ago.
“It’s the entire Capitol community,” Quintana said. “It’s just people getting together at the beginning of the year to get to know each other. Nobody’s lobbying there. I think if you tried to lobby there you would probably get jeered.”
Bob Stern, a former general counsel for the state ethics agency, is concerned that the event is paid for by groups wanting favorable treatment from legislators who will attend.
"It is a great way for RJ Reynolds to earn gratitude from legislators while the legislators do not have to list an unpopular interest group on their campaign statements," Stern said. "I don't have a problem with parties but why do they have to funded by groups that want something from the Legislature?"