Government Bytes


Conventions Still Craving Taxpayer Cash


Already in this early campaign season the two major parties have raised $458 million combined – still average working Americans will cover their big summer convention bills.

A whopping $136.5 million will be the tab taxpayers pick up for the 2012 Republican and Democrat conventions. Although this hefty haul at the expense of taxpayers’ wallets is nothing new, funding has increased by $3 million since the 2008 election.

That total cost, provided by the Bloomberg Government Barometer, covers necessary features of a convention such as security, around $100 million; but it also includes taxpayer dollars spent on alcohol, balloons, entertainment, catering, and biographical films focusing on the lives of the candidates, which will cost an estimated $18 milllion. 

There is virtually no restraint on how taxpayer funds allocated for conventions may be spent. Designed to curb the influence of campaign contributors, this funding instead shifts the burden to taxpayers, inconsiderate of their willingness to fund these lavish events.  

To add to the questionable use of these funds, according to government reports, Bloomberg Businessweek reported 2008 convention expenditures of $39,000 for a teleprompter, $18,000 for “gifts/trinkets,” $3,320 for a “makeup artist consultant,” $6,000 worth of flowers, $3,500 for “promotional hats,” $24,000 for flags and $88,000 for badges. Now with a $3 million hike in cost nobody at the 2012 conventions will want for a “promotional hat.”

Senator Tom Coburn rightfully noted the inconsistency between the government’s vow to slash the $1.2 billion budget deficit and the allowance of a $136.5 million campaign conference budget. “If the parties want to have a convention, let them have a convention, but they ought to be paying for it,” said the Oklahoma Republican. Coburn also acknowledged that a hefty portion of the $136 million will finance the upcoming Republican and Democrat conventions to announce their presidential candidates, an announcement that has essentially already been broadcast. With the advent of primaries in the 1970’s in response to complaints of excessive power vested in party leaders, the function of conventions has become obsolete. They now serve as a formal announcement ceremony and celebration, rather than as an event to determine the nominees.  So, is $136.5 million an acceptable budget for events that do not serve a legitimate function?