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The Power Inside a Power Party

Washington is known for its “important” power lists. Most publications have them. There are lists for top lobbyists like Washingtonian‘s “Hired Guns: The City’s 50 Top Lobbyists.” Both The Hill and Roll Call also boast top lobbyist lists. There are lists for important people everywhere (TIME‘s 100), for socialites (Washington Life‘s Young and the Guest List) and there’s FNC’s “Power Player of the Week.” This week The Hill presented their annual summer “50 Most Beautiful People of Capitol Hill.”

Politico‘s 50 to Watch party Thursday night at Barcode in downtown D.C. was unusual in that not even those attending knew whether they had made the list or whether they were just being invited to a party with booze and balloons.

“I had no idea. I had no clue,” remarked ABC News White House Correspondent Ann Compton on her way into the party upon discovering that she’d made the list under the category of New Deans of the White House Press Corps. “What fun!” She continued, “Having been here since I was brand new at 27, to be discovered is really cool.”

Many who didn’t make the list made jokes. NRSC Spokesman Brian Walsh told me he was unofficially #51. And Sen. John Thune‘s (R-S.D.) press secretary Kyle Downey agreed to be #53. Walsh’s illustrious dog, Rudy, slid in at #52.

HuffPost-AOL Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington showed up just to mingle. She knew she hadn’t made the list. Former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) made the list and few understood why with all the “formers” in his title.

The concept of a power list? “It’s very Washington,” said a GOP flack at the party who wished to remain anonymous.

A sampling of who made the list: CBS News’ Mark Knoller and Bill Plante, American Urban Radio’s April Ryan,  fundraisers like Alison Baker of Straus Baker, Paula Dukes of Rizzo Dukes Group, Joanna Brooks, a religion columnist, Greg Giroux of Bloomberg Government, David Waldman, a liberal blogger. TV Faces included Brett Baier (FNC), Sam Feist (CNN), David Gregory (NBC), Phil Griffin (MSNBC) and Norah O’Donnell (CBS).

Waiters and bartenders at the party had chiseled physiques and wore tight-fitting Politico T-shirts. “What’s not to like?” replied one waiter when asked if he liked the T-shirt. “It says Politico. And then people ask me what Politico is and I have no idea.”

Oh, look! Another White House Dean. April Ryan, a correspondent for American Urban Radio who most recently landed a seat on the WHCA board, also made the list. Like Compton, she was surprised and tickled to make the cut. “It’s amazing,” she said. “I’m thankful. It’s nice that someone recognized the work I do. I wasn’t doing anything to be recognized. I just do my job. It’s an honor.”

WaPo‘s Jonathan Capehart was in the crowd. Asked what these power lists accomplish, he replied, “The most important thing they do is they let people know quite possibly who they should be paying attention to in a serious manner rather than the folks they are already paying attention to. Most of the time the people we think are important aren’t as important as we think they are or they think they are.”

Politico‘s Mike Allen (pictured above in a photograph that makes him look like a cartoon character) had a different, POLITICO (all caps) sort of response when asked to comment on the list. “This is the next generation of newsmakers,” he said. “These are the people who are going to win the cycle.”

Some were excited about the list. “I like the lists,” said ABC’s Polson Kanneth. “Everyone loves a good list.”

As mentioned earlier, The Hill‘s “50 Most Beautiful People of Capitol Hill” came out this week. Party banter inevitably turned to it. One male who had previous been on the beauty list expressed shock over this year’s list. He looked almost embarrassed to have once been on it. Another partygoer expressed outrage, “It’s not just that they were not that attractive. It’s that some were actively ugly.”

While the bar quickly filled with political and media types who appeared to be enjoying themselves, not everyone there was so hot on the concept of power lists. An intern from Ghana perusing the 50 Politicos to Watch glossy magazine at the bar remarked on lists like this in general: “They’re all corrupt. But I have no evidence to prove that.”

And there was publicist Janet Donovan, who also doesn’t appear to think much of lists. “I hate lists,” said Donovan. Drifting into the crowd of important people and those watching them, she added, “They’re condescending.”

For more on the White House Deans, read Politico Patrick Gavin‘s story here.

Find out who else was in the crowd…

Partygoers
MSNBC Contributor Karen Finney, CBS’ Norah O’Donnell, Bill Plante and Christine Delargy, CNN D.C. Bureau Chief Sam Feist,  NBC “MTP” Executive Producer Betsy Fisher, USA Today‘s David Jackson, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Publicist Dave Natonski, Lis Smith, TIME‘s Michael Crowley, Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s Communications Director Doug Thornell, HuffPost‘s Ryan Grim and Peter Cherukuri, Senate Finance Committee aide Scott Mulhauser, Blain Reithmeier, Addison Smith, DNC’s Hari Sevugan, Lobbyist and famed party thrower Juleanna Glover and Chris Reiter.

Politico
Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen, Jonathan Marten, Ken Vogel, and Beth Lester

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