By Andrew Ramonas and Todd Ruger
Politically connected lawyers and lobbyists from Washington have already started traveling to Tampa, Fla., for the Republican National Convention next week, and some made a last-minute addition to their suitcase: an umbrella.
The invitations have been sent for receptions, brunches, boat cruises and after-hours bashes, but the talk now is about a potential party crasher – Tropical Storm Isaac – now spinning in the waters near the British Virgin Islands.
At the moment, Tampa and the convention are in the projected path of the storm that is predicted to become a hurricane. While there is still only a 10 percent chance of getting tropical storm force winds (more than 39 mph) sometime on Tuesday, the threat has convention planners talking about emergency plans.
Even if it's not a direct hit, the region could see heavy downpours that could dampen the party atmosphere. The National Weather Service told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that Florida is going to have some impact, whether minimal or significant. "On a normal day we would be concerned about it. The fact that you put the RNC in the mix, it even complicates it further," said Daniel Noah, warning coordination meteorologist at the weather service's Tampa Bay office.
But the storm isn't worrying Cleta Mitchell, a Foley & Lardner partner in Washington who is leaving today for a series of meetings surrounding the convention, including the two-day National Election Law Seminar put on by the Republican National Lawyers Association at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, Fla.
"There are a lot of ancillary things for political junkies," said Mitchell, who will be honored for her work as the RNLA president at a reception during the convention.
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that the "low-lying and heavily populated Tampa Bay area is one of the most vulnerable in the nation to flooding from deadly hurricane storm surge." There will be 50,000 convention attendees, as well as 20,000 additional visitors, protesters and journalists filling up hotels as far away as Orlando, the newspaper reported.
That includes workers for Public Citizen, a group looking to keep tabs on those parties and make sure they are following all the congressional ethics and lobbying rules.
"I had not even considered the ramifications of a hurricane," Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for the group, said in an email. "If the weather is just unpleasant and not dangerous, they may find plenty of room at some of the exclusive parties."
Check back now through Sept. 7 for more Legal Times and National Law Journal coverage of the Republican National Convention in Tampa and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.