- The Washington Times
Sunday, December 13, 2015

Already struggling with finances, the Democratic Party has drafted a plan to have taxpayers help pay about $20 million for next summer’s nominating convention, reversing a change Congress approved just a year ago.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is also a congresswoman from Florida, has drafted a bill to restore money that both parties used to receive from the federal government to help defray the costs of running their quadrennial conventions.

The Congressional Budget Office revealed the move in a letter released Friday, which said Ms. Wasserman Schultz’s proposal to tap a presidential campaign fund would likely mean each party could get about $20 million in taxpayer money to help with costs.

The DNC is facing tough financial circumstances. The latest report shows it had just $4.7 million in cash on hand as of Oct. 31, less than the $6.9 million in debts the committee reported. By contrast, the Republican National Committee reported $20.4 million in cash, offset by $1.9 million in debts.

Neither the DNC nor Ms. Wasserman Schultz’s congressional office returned messages seeking comment on her plans.

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Allison Moore said the party doesn’t need the help.

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“We support no taxpayer funding as long as there’s an alternate way for us to raise the funds to mount a successful convention,” she said in an email.

It was only last year when lawmakers nixed money for the conventions, deciding the political parties and their presidential nominees — who each raised $1 billion in 2012 — didn’t need help from taxpayers anymore.

Congress instead called for the money to be used to finance research on children’s diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

Months after the change, however, the two parties began to worry that they wouldn’t be able to pay for their conventions. Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress struck a deal to raise the contribution limits so donors could give nearly $100,000 to convention funds, in addition to other contributions, whose limits were also raised.

Republicans appear to have done better under the new rules than the DNC, which has a troubled financial picture. It has raised $51.2 million this year through Oct. 31 but spent $53.4 million — a bad balance in the year before major elections.

The RNC has raised $89.3 million and spent $74 million. It has stockpiled $20.4 million in cash.

The CBO said Ms. Wasserman Schultz’s legislation would tap into the Presidential Election Campaign Fund — the money taxpayers can earmark on their annual filing forms to help defray the costs of presidential campaigns — and make it available to political conventions.

President Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, rejected public financing in 2012. Both candidates decided that they didn’t want to comply with the strict spending limits, which they feared would crimp their ability to flood the airwaves with ads.

That has left the presidential fund with about $290 million. The CBO said that, based on spending in the 2012 conventions, each party likely would get about $20 million under the congresswoman’s proposal.

Based on previous conventions, that would amount to about a quarter of the total cost.

The ban on funding for conventions doesn’t apply to security money. Congress has earmarked about $50 million to help defray costs to state and local law enforcement for securing each convention site since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Democrats will gather next year in Philadelphia, and Republicans will hold their convention in Cleveland.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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