Picture Ken Kesey’s Further bus, a Day-Glo missile rocketing across America filled with speed freaks and acid heads, all searching for the moment that explains the meaning of everything—a band of Merry Pranksters that defined the counterculture of an age.
Now picture the exact opposite, and there is Bus Force One, a rolling, air-conditioned lounge ferrying the wealthy and influential around the most establishment event of the year, the Republican National Convention. And it’s got a disco ball.
Bus Force One, or BF1, as it’s known, is a project of the Washington lobbying firm Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti. The Republicans there, led by Alex Vogel, decided that instead of sponsoring some rock concert or other overwrought convention event, they’d take the road less traveled, as it were.
“My goal is to do something different to entertain our clients and make sure they have a good time in Tampa,” said Vogel, BF1 chief of staff. “And in Tampa, the things they’ll need are transportation, air conditioning, and a cold drink.”
Those clients include a veritable who’s who of the Washington influence game: America’s Health Insurance Plans; Blue Cross Blue Shield; Business Roundtable; eBay; Merck; the National Beer Wholesalers Association; Yahoo; and Wal-Mart, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The bus will roll from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights, doing a loop outside the convention’s security perimeter to whisk clients and friends of the firm from the convention to the big parties and events in Tampa. The bus will be tweeting its whereabouts @MVC_GOP and riders will need credentials to board.
One of the biggest hassles of any convention is logistics, where getting a cab can be next to impossible. And with a fully stocked bar and room for 40, the limo bus is sure to be an oasis from Florida’s August heat.
One MVC client praised the firm for “thinking outside the box.
“We know that logistics and transportation are going to be extremely challenging,” the client continued. “I’m thrilled that MVC is going to provide this service. You’ll have a bunch of people on the bus; it will be a social atmosphere and a good time and they’ll be providing a service at the same time. It’s just another example, and this is because I’m a big fan of MVC, of them truly being a full-service firm.”
Vogel wouldn’t say what the bus cost but did say that renting the bus, stocking food and booze, and hiring security costs less than cosponsoring a big concert.
“This is a better use of resources than to cosponsor a country star I don’t listen to anyway,” he said. (There will be several country acts in Tampa during the convention.)
Sadly for the Fourth Estate, the bus will be closed to the press. Having reporters around would crimp the relaxed, fun ascetic that Vogel’s going for.
Maybe, he joked, he’ll rent BF1 its own press van.