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EDITORIAL: No free parties

- The Washington Times - Friday, February 26, 2010

All too often, lawmakers shrug their shoulders at complaints about wasteful spending, as if to say "no big deal, that's just politics."

Well, when taxpayer money really is going for just politics, rather than for the public good, that's when it's most indefensible.

In that light, it's high time we said goodbye to the 34-year-old practice of taxpayers footing part of the bill for the two major national party conventions during presidential elections. Especially following a year of record federal budget deficits and growing national debt, the Democratic and Republican parties should fend for themselves without confiscating money from Joe Taxpayer.

At best, it seems unfair to ask an American public whose members hold a vast range of political ideologies to kick in a portion of the funding for the conventions of both - but only - the Republicans and Democrats, as the conventions of other political groups are (thankfully) not eligible for this money. Perhaps worse, though, is that the two major political parties receive millions of dollars for their conventions from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund at a time when unemployment hovers around 10 percent, economic growth is feeble and the median household income continues to drop steadily.

According to a 2008 report by Congressional Research Service, advocates of this kind of funding say it is "a way to insulate conventions ... from undue individual, corporate or labor influence and from real or apparent corruption stemming from private funds." But host committees for conventions are entitled to supplement the federal money with private-source fundraising, which can go to meals, receptions and other convention activities.

Because host committees so frequently take advantage of this allowance, the vast majority of the total amount spent on conventions ends up coming from private outlets. The host committee for the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver raised $61 million, while the host committee for the Republican National Convention of the same year in Minneapolis-St. Paul raised $57 million, according to the Campaign Finance Institute. Combined, the $16 million given by the federal government to each party accounts for around 27 percent of the total amount raised, a rather paltry sum in leagues this big.

Our major political parties are able to support the spending at their lavish conventions without public assistance. Let's stop using tax money to help them.