House agrees to eliminate funding for political conventions

The government has spent about $224 million since 1976 on the national political conventions. On Wednesday the House of Representatives voted to end federal funding for the conventions. 

Lynne Sladky/AP
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, (c.), and the women from the House of Representatives wave after speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 4. On Wednesday the House of Representatives voted to end federal funding for political conventions.

House Republicans and Democrats on Wednesday came together on at least one way to reduce government spending — by eliminating federal assistance for the two parties' increasingly expensive and stage-managed presidential conventions.

The vote was 310-95.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla, who sponsored the legislation, says the government has spent about $224 million on the quadrennial gatherings of party faithful since 1976, when in the post-Watergate era it was considered a way to reduce the influence of money in politics.

He says this year federal assistance for the two conventions was about $35 million, slightly more than 20 percent of the total costs as the parties turn to private donors to pay for the lavish events. In 1980 federal grants paid for nearly 95 percent of convention costs.

"There's no need to be writing checks to the Democratic Party and the Republican Party," Cole said. "Clearly it's an idea whose time has come and gone."

"American taxpayers should not be subsidizing political party conventions," added House Administrations Committee chairman Dan Lungren, R-Calif, characterizing the events as "weeklong televised movie sets and almost entirely symbolic."

One voice of dissent came from Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, who said public financing was designed to restore confidence in the political process and the bill would "inject more private influence over elections even though the current level is already appallingly high."

The Senate has approved similar legislation and the two sides must now resolve differences in the two bills

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