We did that…but we don’t want to
There are better ways to spend that convention money
Published: Sunday, September 9, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 19:11
In case you were curious as to how much it costs to put on the national conventions of the last two weeks, here’s a number that’ll leave a sour taste in your mouth: $136 million.
Here is a breakdown: $100 million – $50 million for each party – was set aside by Congress for security. The remaining $36.5 million was contributed directly by taxpayers (that’s over $18 million attributed to each party, up almost $1.5 million from 2008).
That $36.5 million was once your money. You did that!
Before you start sighing heavily and going into a political rant mode akin to those your father gives at Thanksgiving dinner, you agreed to it. Each year, the Federal Election Commission gives you the option to give $3 of your federal tax to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. The federal government then receives $3 less in tax revenue that could be used for other spending.
Sure, $3 isn’t a lot of money for one person, but total it up and then consider what those three dollars are being used for – to help foot the convention bill for expenses from facilities to floral arrangements. There are few rules to how the cash is spent, as long as it’s legal and used for the convention.
So, for instance, if the Republican Party wants to use the $18 million to pay for an ice sculpture of Mitt Romney, it is well within its rights. Those rights also include bringing in Eva Longoria to talk about the middle class and Clint Eastwood to talk to the furniture.
It’s great entertainment if you care enough to watch the entire show from your couch, but voters are basically just paying for a pompous parade. Besides seeing the softer side of Mitt Romney and seeing that failing teleprompters aren’t going to stop Bill Clinton from bringing down the house, nothing new was learned.
That’s not to say there isn’t any purpose to them. Back in 2004, a nearly unknown Illinois Senator named Barack Obama gave the keynote address at the DNC.
The cost is rising, and the viewership is declining. 35.7 million people tuned into the president’s speech on Thursday night, and 30.3 tuned into Romney’s. In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama pulled in at least 40 million during his speech; 39 million watched John McCain’s address. The support for the checkoff is, too, dwindling, with a 6.6 percent participation rate in 2010.
It’s all a game, of course, to get the biggest bump in supporters. Polling by Rasmussen Reports had Obama one point behind Romney (46 percent to 45 percent) prior to his speech on Thursday night; the President now leads 49 percent to 45 percent.
Obama will need to continue to ride the bump to win. The weeks that follow have far more of an impact, especially as national short-term memory loss kicks in and those poll numbers start to close in again.
Major parties are more than capable of funding their own conventions through private donations. Why not allocate the PECF money to better prepare for the coming weeks? The national conventions are the set-first priority for the fund distribution, but the convention is never the most important part of a candidate’s campaign. In fact, there hasn’t been a brokered convention since the 1952 Democratic Party. Since then, both parties have chosen their nominees during primaries and caucuses.
The great irony is that so much of the focus of this political season is getting the economy back on track and focusing on the middle class.
Surely a country that’s $16 trillion in debt can find a better use for that fund than to pay politicians to bump elbows and celebrate their greatness.
We’d be willing to put money on it.