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Pay to play: Rove, Gibbs coming to State Bar conference

The State Bar is spending $51,000 to bring Robert Gibbs and Karl Rove to its 2014 Annual Meeting & Conference next month.

All that and a dues increase too?

That’s where my brain went first. But Bar President Patrick Fiedler was quick to point out that the fee to bring the Barack Obama and George W. Bush advisors won’t come from dues.

Instead, he said it’s coming from those who register to go to the conference – which is June 26 and June 27 at the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa in Lake Geneva – as well as sponsorships and exhibitor fees.

If you still think it’s too much, that’s cool. If you don’t, that’s cool too. After all, Sarah Palin’s daughter was netting between $15,000 and $30,000 for speaking engagements a few years ago, and she never advised a president.

But if you are outraged, Fiedler wants you to know that, if you aren’t going, you didn’t pay for it.

The bar’s president – whose term ends June 30, said he chose the pair as a good way to get lawyers to come and to keep them until the end. The beginning of the event will feature 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judges Diane Sykes and David Hamilton, and Gibbs and Rove will speak June 27.

Fiedler said he expects both of them to talk about politics as only two insiders would know how. It may not all be directly related to the law, but it should be a good speech, he said.

“To me, it’s exciting to get speakers of this renown and caliber,” he said.

Fiedler said he has received two complaints about Rove and Gibbs’ planned appearance. He wouldn’t disclose who they were, but said he told them the same thing he told me.

The bar has been pushing the conference hard. In past years it was known as a way for attorneys to take a smorgasbord of continuing legal education classes.

But next month’s event is the first one the bar has put on in a while, after they put the kibosh on it a few years ago due to declining attendance.

In our conversation, Fiedler was quick to point out that he sees the conference as a social gathering, instead of just a way to get CLE credits. There is even a beach bash the night of June 26, complete with a steel drum band.

“It’s an opportunity for lawyers to socialize. It’s something beyond going in the morning, getting these CLE credits and going home,” Fiedler said.

About Eric Heisig

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