U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, is not a fan of political conventions.
He said he’s not likely to come to Philadelphia this week to watch George W. Bush collect his party’s presidential nomination. And he doesn’t think that taxpayers should be paying any of the freight for these political parties.
In fact, he said last week he is considering a bill to ban federal financing of them.
Nothing is decided at the convention anymore, Bartlett said. There is no suspense and even the vice-presidential candidates have been chosen.
Deputy Press Secretary Sally Taylor cautioned the proposal was “extremely preliminary.”
Susan Turnbull, chairwoman of the Maryland Gore 2000 campaign, said it was “another of (Bartlett’s) off-the-wall, right-wing approaches to life.” There is already “tremendous corporate support” for party conventions, and she said she “can’t imagine why one would put more corporate dollars” in this event.
The chance of such a bill passing Congress, Turnbull said, is “zero to none.”
Ray Sullivan, spokesman for the Bush campaign, would only say it was an “interesting idea.”
“We’ll have to watch that,” he said.
Allan Lichtman, American University history professor and political analyst, said the Democrats would never go along with Bartlett’s proposal.
“It would mean that the Republican convention would be a bigger pageant,” he said, because Republicans have better access to big money. It would also “tie Democrats too closely to labor,” which would be the major source of funding for their campaign, he said.
Turnbull said it wasn’t likely that the size and expense of conventions could be reduced to account for a loss of federal dollars. The only way to bring down the cost of the conventions would be to reduce the number of people attending, she said. And, with the television networks reducing convention coverage, the only way to get party activists together is through the convention, she said.
This year, the federal government will contribute about $13 million to each party for convention activities. Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will contribute about $7 million more. The total cost of the Republican convention has been estimated at upwards of $63 million, according to the National Journal. Corporate donors make up the remainder of the cost.
Bartlett was a delegate to the 1996 convention, but said he preferred to give the opportunity to a constituent this year. This time around, Bartlett said he first backed former Vice President Dan Quayle for president, but only “to move Bush to the right.” Then he supported magazine publisher Steve Forbes, and was a Forbes delegate until the candidate dropped out, Taylor said.
Now Maryland’s 6th Congressional District sent the Frederick County state’s attorney, a state senator and the Allegheny County Republican Central Committee Chairman to the convention.
– 30 – CNS-08-01-00