11:16am

Tue June 5, 2012
Politics

Party's Over for Political Conventions Paid for by PECF (And You)

Colorado Senator Mark Udall is introducing a bill that would prohibit the use of public money to pay for political party conventions. The bill addresses the use of Presidential Election Campaign Funds (PECF) - which have few federal restrictions on how that money is used.

The money comes from checking that little box at the end of your tax return that asks if you want $3 of your federal tax to go to the PECF fund.

According to the Federal Election Commission website, some 33 million Americans have checked the box over the last five years. But how many of them would be surprised to learn that the money is used for more than just election expenses?

Sen. Udall’s Communications Director Mike Saccone says most people would be shocked to learn that the two major political parties this year received a $36.6 million check from taxpayers to pay for conventions over the summer. And, he says Udall sees that as a bigger problem than in previous years.

“These conventions used to be an open, public process. And now, they’re essentially partisan parties,” Saccone says. “(Udall) believes that, especially in a time when we’re trying to reduce the national debt, it’s inappropriate for public funds to be used to cover these political conventions.”

Of course, public funding isn't a new thing, but the percentage going to party conventions has changed greatly. This handy public funding fact sheet [pdf] shows that in previous years, millions in PECF money was spent by campaigns. In 2012, more (in fact, almost all of it) is going specifically to party conventions.

Udall introduced the bill Monday, along with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). In a press release, Coburn says it’s high time for Congress to end the practice.

“With a languishing recovery and unsustainable debt, there is no justification for spending public funds on booze, balloons and confetti. I hope my colleagues will support this common sense legislation that says the ‘party is over’ when it comes to travel and meetings paid for by taxpayers.”

An editorial in Charleston, South Carolina's Post and Courier hints at a bit of hypocrisy in allowing taxpayers to pick up the tab for this summer's conventions:

Many of the same lawmakers who rightly condemned an $823,000 bash that the federal General Services Administration threw for itself in Las Vegas in 2010 approved $18 million each for this year’s Democratic and Republican bashes.

In addition to ending the public funding for convention parties, Saccone says the bill would allow PECF funds already collected to be applied toward reducing the nation’s $15.6 trillion deficit.

"Obviously it's not a large portion of our national debt, however, every little bit counts, and this is just one more way to be fiscally responsible while we're trying to reduce our deficit," he says.

If enacted, the legislation would take effect after Dec. 31 of this year.