NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 15, 2008

The last time Denver hosted the Democratic convention was 1908. This year's convention promises to be "greener."  The city is offering delegates 1,000 bicycles and a fleet of cars that will run on "waste-beer" ethanol; plus, Denver will be covered with recycling bins and reusable water bottles, says the Economist.

But Denver is having trouble paying for it all, adds the Economist:

  • A 1974 law allows each party to receive $16.4 million in public financing for its convention on condition that extra party funds will not be used.
  • Including a $50 million federal security grant, the total cost of the 2008 convention is well over $100 million, of which Denver is contracted to raise $40.6 million in private contributions.
  • This does not include $15 million worth of "donated services" it must guarantee from corporations.
  • The last official fundraising report was on June 16, when the host committee missed a fundraising deadline, admitting it was $11 million short.

One bright spot is the convention is awash with corporate cash, says the Economist.  So far 80 corporations have given money in exchange for access to high-level politicians or exclusive promotional rights.  If Barack Obama is forced to help raise money to make up the short fall, it could contradict campaign principles.  Even more awkward, convention contributions are considered a tax-deductible business expense.

Historically, party conventions are not always this expensive, nor do they rely so heavily on private financing.  According to a report from the Campaign Finance Institute, in 1992 private donors spent $8 million between the two parties' conventions.  Denver's host committee must raise several times that, in a medium-sized city with few corporate headquarters, concludes the Economist.

Source: Editorial, "Beer and Snowballs," The Economist, August 7, 2008.

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