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Support grows to cut public funding for political conventions

February 2, 2014 at 5:31 PM EST
A proposal to cut off public funding for national political conventions is gaining support across both aisles in Congress. How much do the conventions cost American taxpayers? Hari Sreenivasan speaks with Molly Hooper, a reporter for The Hill, about the details of the plan
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TRANSCRIPT

HARI SREENIVASAN: For all the talk about gridlock in Washington, there’s growing bipartisan support for a plan that’s gotten little attention — that is to cut off public funding for the national political conventions. Molly Hooper, a reporter for The Hill, has been working on this story. I spoke to her earlier from Washington.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So how much public funding is there that goes for these conventions and what are they proposing to do with it?

MOLLY HOOPER: Well, right now as of 2012, the American people paid $36 million dollars between the two major party conventions. But the money that the Republicans and Democrats want to use would actually be funding a 10-year research initiative for pediatric health issues, and that money would be $126 million dollars over that period of time. So that would encapsulate two political conventions

HARI SREENIVASAN: Okay, so right now, about a quarter of the political conventions come from our pockets, and the rest, from what, sponsors?

MOLLY HOOPER: Yes, sponsors. And it’s actually a loophole that the parties have found where, you know, you go to these conventions every four years, show up in a city and there’s a host committee. And that host committee can take unlimited amount of money from corporate sponsors. The law was originally written so that corporations could not essentially buy political parties. And so you see members up on Capitol Hill saying ‘you know these events, number one, not a lot of news is made at these events — they’re four day pep rallies. Why are we using taxpayer dollars to pay for it?’ It won’t be very difficult for them to raise the money to make up for the difference. And so originally this bill was going to just give the money right back to the Treasury, but House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said ‘wait a second, we can use this money for pediatric research.’

HARI SREENIVASAN: So what are those who are on the side of public financing saying? Are they concerned that this could turn into the Coke versus Pepsi convention?

MOLLY HOOPER: Oh yes, well they don’t like it to begin with. They’re actually saying that, the GOP and Democrats, the people who want corporations to essentially Coke v. Pepsi conventions to happen, they’re saying ‘this is just a fig leaf.” You know the proponents of ending the public financing, all they’re doing is wrapping it up in this bill for kids research. When really, in fact, it’s just an authorizing bill and won’t necessarily appropriate the funds for those kids you know research initially.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, Molly Hooper joining us from Washington D.C., a reporter for The Hill.

MOLLY HOOPER: Thank you.