Governors Defend Weekend Expenditures

Article excerpt

WOODSTOCK, Vt. _ Democratic governors defended using corporate funds to bankroll a $130,000 weekend retreat beginning Thursday and granting the donors access to policy sessions and private dinners.

"It's money well-spent, frankly," Gov. David Walters of Oklahoma told a news conference as the meeting got under way.

"We certainly don't have any apologies for our raising funds like any other partisan organization would," said Walters, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.

A dozen Democratic governors were meeting at an inn in this picturesque New England town to discuss health care reform, education and the economy.

The $130,000 cost of the conference comes out of funds raised by the Democratic Governors Association throughout the year, Walters said.

AT T, Gannett, Coca-Cola, Coors, The Travelers, Philip-Morris, the AFL-CIO and other labor groups are among perhaps 100 contributors to the association. Anyone can belong by paying $1,500 to attend the organization's annual banquet in Washington.

Many of the sponsors are members of the "Governor's Club," companies and individuals who contribute or raise $5,000.

The corporate and other money pays the cost of putting on the conference, but the governors paid their own way to Woodstock.

Democratic aides estimate that perhaps 200 corporate lobbyists came to town to attend the weekend retreat. They each paid a $400 registration fee, which got them into the policy sessions and two private dinners with the governors.

Featured dinner guests are White House deputy chief of staff Roy Neel and Democratic National Committee Chairman David Wilhelm. …