Nominating Conventions Feature Questionable Financing Tactics

Spectacle is expensive.

Photo by zenobia_joy
Photo by  zenobia_joy
Photo by zenobia_joy
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It takes a lot of money to pay for the glittery, balloon-strewn, optics-heavy spectacle that is the nominating convention, and both the DNC and RNCC have come up with some suspect strategies this week to deal with costs for their respective conventions next year.

It started at the beginning of this week, with the Republican National Convention Committee deciding it was going to have journalists pay their way, to the tune of $150 for a seat on the press stand set aside for newspapers/magazines/wire and digital print pub reporters. Seats in this section are normally offered gratis.

Heather Rothman, chairwoman of the Executive Committee of Periodical Correspondents, and Jonathan D. Salant, chairman of the Standing Committee of Correspondents, issued a joint statement about the change saying, “We are concerned that the proposed fee smacks of forcing the press to pay for news gathering. We urge the RNCC to follow the precedent of previous conventions of both parties and drop plans for an access fee so the press can continue to inform the public about a major news event.”

Later in the week, the Democratic National Committee decided to focus its fundraising efforts on the fundraisers, falling back on the ol’ dollars-for-access bartering system between lobbyists and politicians.

The Hill’s Megan Wilson reports that DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz met with a number of lobbyists to persuade them to bundle, bundle, bundle for the convention.

In exchange, the DNC offers an enticing array of party favors. Here’s what top-tier bundlers ($750,000 and up) get, according to Wilson:

VIP treatment that includes a photo-op at the official convention podium, access to a “premiere hotel” room in the same block as the National Finance Committee and access to celebrations “featuring celebrities and other luminaries, live music and Philadelphia’s most recognized chefs” every night of the weeklong convention.

This is all made possible thanks to the DNC’s decision to roll back 2008 and 2012 convention rules that prevented lobbyists and PACs from doing exactly what the DNC is now encouraging. And the lobbyists sure are excited.

“This time around, it’s going to be a blast, because now we don’t even have the pretense of public financing behind the conventions,” Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist at Public Citizen, told The Hill earlier this year.

“Every convention, the extent of the schmoozing is breathtaking,” he said. “Once they give this kind of money, they’re paying for face-time. That’s what they get: they get dinner, they get receptions with the candidate.”

First Amendment, we hardly knew ye.