Who Pays for the Conventions? We All Do

Photograph by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Balloons at the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minnesota.

Ever wonder why the presidential conventions still take place?

After all, for more than 30 years now, the conventions haven’t really mattered — the nominee has been decided long before the convention begins, thanks to a change in the primary system back in the 70s. This year is no different: Republicans go to Tampa, Florida in late August to make Mitt Romney official, while Democrats clearly know their pick, but will follow suit the next week in Charlotte, North Carolina.

So why is the General Services Administration slammed for spending $823,000 on a conference in Vegas when the conventions will cost the taxpayers much, much more?

Today Bloomberg Government’s Brian Faler takes a look at the convention tab — and why the events where President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney will receive their parties’ official nominations costs $136 million. And Congress doles out the money.

Where does the cash go? Faler explains $100 million pays for security at both conventions, plus $18 million for each party to pay for such things as balloons and signs — and even alcohol. The money was designed to reduce the influence of campaign contributions. But with lawmakers’ promises to cut the government’s $1.2 trillion deficit, Senator Tom Coburn said both parties ought to say “no thanks” to the cash.

“If the parties want to have a convention, let them have a convention, but they ought to be paying for it,” said Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican. “We can have just as good a party” without tax dollars.

“You can’t be critical of all the other conventions and parties and conferences that the federal government is doing and then say we’re going to take $136 million on spend it on conventions,” said Coburn. “For a convention on something that’s already decided?”

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