DENVER--Political conventions nowadays are as much about capitalism as they are about politics.
AT&T vendors here pass out Chapstick and cup cozies with the company's logo. Delegates wander around in CNN caps. Lanyards for official credentials sport a Qwest logo. Coca Cola tote bags are carried into the Pepsi Center, while entrepreneurs hand out free samples (or sometimes try to sell them).
The Big Tent, where bloggers are spending most of their time, has become a veritable trade show of tech-oriented products and businesses.
Kary and Gerhard Rivera are Denver locals--they're both spouses and business partners--who are taking advantage of the convention events to promote their site Fling It Girl, which launched last month. Kary describes the site as a kind of "Digg for women." Formatted like Digg, the site lets users submit, vote for, and bury items items from the Web. Most "flung" items are female-oriented, including fashion and home decor, though the site does have a "guy stuff" section.
"It's exciting to have the convention here in Denver," Kary Rivera said. "It's a right-place, right-time sort of thing, so we wanted to take advantage of it the best we can."
The Riveras were asked to volunteer at the Electric Vehicle Rolling Showcase but ended up at the Big Tent on Tuesday. Along with meeting the founders of Daily Kos and Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, the couple ran into actress Daryl Hannah for a second time this week and gave the celebrity a Fling It Girl tank top.
"Fling it Girl is not a political site at all, so we looked at this as more of an opportunity for us to shake hands and see faces," Kary Rivera said.
Andrew Hunter was at the Big Tent on Tuesday to promote the the Change Ring, a product capitalizing on Barack Obama's popularity and his theme of "change." The Change Ring is a key ring or pendant modeled after Delta, the mathematical symbol for change.
The key ring comes with key retrieval system called Boomering SMS. A dog tag with a serial number is attached to each ring, and the owner of ring is supposed to enter the serial number, along with their cell phone number and e-mail address, onto the company Web site. The dog tag has instructions for anyone who finds a lost Change Ring to text the Boomering SMS code to the company's short-code. Change Ring then bridges communication between the owner and the finder of the key ring.
Two Change Rings can be purchased for $19.99, and a portion of the cost goes to Obama's campaign, and a portion goes to American charities.
While start-ups were on display in the Big Tent, the delegates are benefiting from the eagerness of corporate America to participate in the political process.
Florida delegate Amy Mercado on Wednesday carried around an Oracle tote bag. The Silicon Valley company, along with Florida Power and Light and Disney, is sponsoring Florida's efforts to send a "green delegation" to Denver.
The delegates from Washington state were treated to a reception hosted by Microsoft.
"There's lots of companies here pitching themselves and their businesses to their state delegations," said Washington delegate Patrick Gunning. "Most of (the delegates) are pretty influential in their home states."
His fellow Washington delegate, Caitlin Ormsby, said she didn't mind the corporate presence, "as long as they're on board with Democratic policies."
Gunning said it was important for the Democratic party to have a strong relationship with large employers like Microsoft, but added, "It's definitely a big party for corporate America here, and I'm not entirely sure what to think of it."