Politics
3:14 am
Fri June 22, 2012

Senate Strips Public Funds From Party Conventions

Originally published on Fri June 22, 2012 5:54 am

Later this summer, Republicans will gather in Tampa, Fla., for their presidential nominating convention; Democrats will then do the same in Charlotte, N.C. Each party gets more than $18 million in public funds this year to help pay for the gatherings.

The money comes from that $3 box that taxpayers can check on their federal tax returns. But this could be the last time party conventions get taxpayer funding.

The Senate has passed a bipartisan measure cutting off all public funding for conventions after this year. The amendment is part of the farm bill that just passed the Senate.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn co-sponsored the ban.

"We're borrowing money from the Chinese to fund a 'Hallelujah Party' in both Tampa and Charlotte this year, each one of them getting $18.4 million. It's time that kind of nonsense stops," Coburn said.

He thought his measure would be defeated, but he was wrong. It passed 95-4.

Louisiana's Mary Landrieu is one of the four Democrats who voted against cutting off public funding for conventions. "Otherwise you're going to have only corporate money involved in conventions," she said, "and I think, frankly, you know, the public should have an opportunity to contribute if they want."

But huge amounts of corporate money are already being spent at conventions.

"With all the money that's flowing through the system today, the funding of the convention is a minor item," said Sen. John McCain, the nominee at the GOP's last presidential convention in St. Paul, Minn.

Last year, the Republican-run House passed a ban on public funding for conventions, but it died in the Senate. With Thursday's vote, such a ban appears more likely.

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Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Later this summer, Republicans gather in Tampa for their presidential nominating convention. Democrats will then do the same in Charlotte. This year, each party gets more than $18 million in public funds to help pay for these political pow-wows. The money comes from that $3 check-off on your tax return. But this could be the last time that the party conventions get public funding. As NPR's David Welna reports, the Senate has just voted to end that practice.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: The amendment cutting off all public funding for conventions after this year is now part of a big farm bill that just passed the Senate. Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn co-sponsored the bipartisan ban.

SENATOR TOM COBURN: So we're borrowing money from the Chinese to fund a Hallelujah Party in both Tampa and Charlotte this year, each one of them getting $18.4 million. It's time that kind of nonsense stops.

WELNA: Coburn thought his measure would be defeated, but he was wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: On this vote, the yeas are 95, the nays are four.

WELNA: Louisiana's Mary Landrieu is one of the four Democrats who voted against cutting off public funding for conventions.

SENATOR MARY LANDRIEU: Otherwise, you're going to have only corporate money involved in conventions. And I think, frankly, you know, the public, you know, should have an opportunity to contribute if they want.

WELNA: But huge amounts of corporate money are already being spent at conventions. John McCain was the nominee at the GOP's last presidential convention in St. Paul.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: With all the money that's flowing through the system today, the funding of the convention is a minor item.

WELNA: Last year, the Republican-run House also passed a ban on public funding for conventions that died in the Senate. With yesterday's vote, such a ban would now appear more likely.

David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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