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Jewish World Review July 7, 2000 / 4 Tamuz, 5760

Michelle Malkin

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Partying on the people’s dime

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- BOTH DEMOCRATIC AND REPUBLICAN PARTY LEADERS will hold national conventions this summer funded with millions of tax dollars. Never have a donkey and an elephant looked more alike. For all the braying and trumpeting about their ideological differences, the two major political parties are twin beasts when it comes to celebrating on the public dole.

That’s right. When you see all those flag-waving, confetti-throwing, G-d-Bless-America-crooning convention delegates on TV next month, don’t let yourself feel too patriotic. Feel ripped off.

In Los Angeles, citizens will cough up $4 million to help the private host committee in charge of coordinating the Democratic National Convention. That’s on top of $7 million in in-kind public contributions from the city for police and transportation costs. And that’s in addition to about $13 million in federal funding (given to each of the party conventions).

City leaders and Democratic Party officials had initially pledged to take full financial responsibility for the event. The convention organizers proceeded to rake in massive corporate donations – all tax-deductible – from Microsoft, AT&T, DaimlerChrysler, General Motors and United Parcel Service, among others. Firms are providing host committee members with free computers, cell phones, and cars.

Despite such corporate largesse, the Democrats claimed a $10 million budget shortfall last week. Their eleventh-hour bailout was approved by the city council after intense lobbying by the city’s Republican-in-name-only mayor, Richard Riordan, and by President Clinton’s personal ATM machine, Democratic fund-raiser Terry McAuliffe.

Even as he reached into public coffers to help Gore and the Dems, Mayor Riordan bragged that his own personal fund-raising efforts -- $5 million over six weeks -- had raised “far more private money than has ever been raised by a host committee in the history of any Democratic convention.” Riordan is also donating $1 million from his own bank account. Bravo, Mr. Moneybags. So why the need to tap the public piggy bank and siphon off funds from basic municipal services?

L.A. City Councilman Alex Padilla, who voted for the $4 million gift to Democrats, pooh-poohed the convention welfare handout. ''At the end of the day, what it comes down to is a dollar per person in the city of Los Angeles,'' he said.

Maybe so, but when a person is forced to pay for politics with which he disagrees, it’s wrong -- no matter how you divvy up the booty. The subsidy is essentially a government donation to the Gore campaign. As California political strategist Arnold Steinberg noted in National Review Online, the $4 million cash infusion “allows the Democratic National Committee to spend that amount in soft money for Gore, instead of having to allocate or raise that amount for their convention deficit.”

The Los Angeles Times editorialized that the city needed to pay up to avoid having “egg on its face.” But by allowing the private host committee to break its promise and by caving in to its last-minute demand for city funds, Los Angeles showed itself to be a world-class pushover. (It should be noted that the newspaper’s parent company, Times Mirror, made a donation of more than $5,000 to the host committee and is a corporate underwriter of Staples Center, the city’s publicly-subsidized convention facility. So much for independent media watchdogs.)

On the opposite coast, the Republican Party – which supposedly stands for limited government and fiscal responsibility -- is gearing up for an even bigger shindig at public expense. The private host committee for the GOP convention in Philadelphia netted $7 million from the city, $7 million from Pennsylvania, and $3 million from the Delaware Port Authority. Among the amenities government will provide: a media complex, shuttle system, lighted boat parade, state trooper escorts, 350 motor coaches, and “street concierges” who will offer tourist tips.

Corporate welfare, we’re always told, more than pays for itself. Democrat and Republican conventioneers argue that the economic benefits of the events will far outweigh the public subsidies they’ve extracted from taxpayers. That’s the same bogus argument used by civic cheerleaders to subsidize not only convention centers, but also stadiums, parking garages, symphony halls, cinema complexes, and other bottomless downtown money pits.

If these projects were so lucrative, the private sector would have funded them on their own. And the party animals would keep their insatiable snouts out of the public trough.


JWR contributor Michelle Malkin can be reached by clicking here.

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© 2000, Creators Syndicate