Obama's Million dollar Convention
The ‘People’s’ Convention?
BY: Andrew Stiles - February 9, 2012 5:00 am
The organizers of the upcoming Democratic National Convention are
doing everything possible to get around the same financial restrictions
they once promoted in a concerted effort to make sure that America’s
wealthiest individuals, corporations, and lobbyists contribute their
“fair share” to the convention.
Host committee spokeswoman Suzi Emmerling, formerly of the liberal
think tank Center for American Progress, insisted that convention
leaders were not attempting to sidestep the fundraising restrictions.
Democratic National Convention Committee CEO Steve Kerrigan, she said,
had simply been “educating Beltway types about the new rules.”
“All of this is brand new,” Emmerling tells the Washington Free Beacon. “A convention has never been funded this way before, so there are a lot of false assumptions about what we’re doing.”
Democrats are billing the upcoming Democratic National Committee’s
annual convention as a “People’s Convention,” funded by “the people.” At
President Obama’s request, the host committee in Charlotte—which must
raise $36.6 million to pay for the convention—has promised to refuse
donations from corporations, lobbyists or other special interest groups,
including unions. Individual contributions are limited to $100,000.
But living up to these ambitious self-imposed rules is proving more
difficult than party leaders expected. Local sources say the DNC is
approaching wealthy Bank of America executives in an effort to unload
some of its premier convention packages. A number of these executives
have been shocked at the audacity of the proposition, given the
administration’s attacks on not only the bank but also on wealthy
Americans in general. President Obama and his Democratic colleagues have
repeatedly charged that wealthy Americans are not “paying their fair
share” to the federal government in the form of taxes.
Steve Kerrigan, the committee CEO, recently convened a meeting with
lobbyists and other Beltway power brokers at the Jefferson Hotel in
Washington D.C. Democratic sources told Bloomberg
that Kerrigan, a former national political director for Sen. Ted
Kennedy (D-Mass.), touted an expensive array of convention “packages”
that were aimed at attracting ultra-wealthy donors.
One of the options is the $1 million “Presidential” level, which
includes a “premier uptown hotel room” and “concierge services,” as well
as the $500,000 “Gold Rush” package.
Convention leaders have also sought to court ultra-wealthy donors by moving
the president’s acceptance speech to Bank of America Stadium (the bank
is headquartered in Charlotte), the 74,000-seat home to the NFL’s
Carolina Panthers. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the
decision was intended to allow “greater participation from all walks of
life.” However, Democratic sources confided that the move would allow
convention organizers “to sell more skyboxes to wealthy donors,”
according to Bloomberg.
Committee officials dispute the report. “Decisions about convention
planning are driven by engaging more people in the process, not by
money,” Kerrigan said in a statement.
Still, the decision was criticized on the left by those who were not
pleased with the idea of Obama accepting his party’s nomination under
the banner of the country’s second-largest financial institution, which
received a $45 billion taxpayer-funded bailout during the financial
crisis. Obama himself has directed some tough rhetoric toward Bank of
America. For example, when the bank proposed charging a $5 monthly fee
to debit card users, Obama complained that the bank was “using financial regulation as an excuse to charge consumers more.”
But “educating” the super-rich is not the only way the DNC has sought
to sidestep its convention fundraising rules. For instance, while the
convention committee isn’t accepting cash donations from corporations,
there are no corresponding restrictions with respect to “in kind”
donations such as food or equipment, which can add up to millions of
dollars. The DNCC has also established a separate “Hospitality”
committee, called the New American City Foundation, to sponsor parties
and other events associated with the convention, which is not bound by
the same fundraising restrictions.
The overall fundraising effort appears to be struggling. Convention
organization recently decided to shorten the length of the convention
from four days to three. Local officials, meanwhile, have raised
concerns about the host committee’s refusal to disclose its fundraising
Scott Stone, former Republican candidate for mayor of Charlotte,
cites the host committee’s refusal to release its fundraising records as
“a significant concern.” “Not only because of the lack of
transparency,” he says, “but if they don’t meet their numbers, taxpayers
could be left with the bill.”
A host committee official tells the Washington Free Beacon
that there are no plans to publicly release fundraising figures before
the FEC-mandated deadline of one month following the convention.
Meanwhile, organizers in Tampa, Fla., site of the 2012 GOP convention,
announced back in August that they had raised $15 million of their $55
A review of the DNC fundraising figures from the 2008 convention in
Denver suggest that party leaders were wildly optimistic to believe they
could raise $36 million from “the people.” Of the $61 million the DNC
raised for the Denver convention, more than 70 percent came from donations of $250,000 or higher.
Nearly a quarter of the convention’s funding came from just 12
donations of more than $1 million. Union groups alone gave $8.3 million
(14 percent). Contributions of $100,00 or less—this year’s
limit—accounted for only 5 percent of the total.
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