Monday, November 19, 2007

Congress refusing to pay for convention security

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

The U.S. government has traditionally, and I think appropriately paid for much of the security for the major party national conventions. Well Congress is taking their time:

Denver will be forced to pay millions of dollars in upfront security costs for the 2008 Democratic National Convention if federal appropriations remain stalled in Congress, several officials said st week. The concern is at such a level that Rep. Diana DeGette, a Denver Democrat, and Rep. Betty McCollum, DeGette's counterpart representing St. Paul, Minn., which is hosting the Republican National Convention, plan to send letters this week to the congressional leadership and to the leadership of the House Appropriations Committee urging action.

With Congress out for the two-week Thanksgiving recess, and the appropriations process stalled during debates over funding the war in Iraq, the host cities fear they won't have the money in hand when they need it. Denver and St. Paul have requested a total of $100 million.

The cities say that they aren't prepared to pay the costs of providing security for the national conventions in the post-9/11 environment and that they aren't prepared to wait for the federal bureaucracy to reimburse them long after the balloons and confetti have fallen.
"It is extremely important that we get at least some of the money upfront so that we can start forming plans and signing security contracts," DeGette said in a phone interview Friday. "This is a big deal," DeGette said. "We want to ensure that we get at least a down payment."
DeGette and McCollum have crafted the letter and are collecting signatures from the congressional delegations in Colorado and Minnesota.
DeGette and others stress that ultimately the money should be there. But the experience of the 2004 conventions has haunted planners in Denver and St. Paul. It took Congress two terms to free up the money needed to secure the Democratic convention in Boston and the GOP's event in New York in 2004. During that long process, the cities had to shoulder large costs. Boston wasn't fully reimbursed for nearly two years.

"That would be less than ideal here," said Leslie Oliver, spokeswoman for Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat from Golden. "Denver isn't set up like Boston or New York, nor is (St. Paul), to bear the cost. It would be a big hardship, which is why we're pretty adamant to write the letters and push this along." DeGette said conversations she had with Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper last week stressed that security officials here aren't able to sign some contracts and set other plans in place while the appropriations process remains in limbo.
A request for the $100 million within a House bill this spring was trimmed down to $25 million - or $12.5 million per city. A request for the full $100 million was approved by the Senate this summer.

Obviously security cost have skyrocketed in recent years, and the burden can not be picked up by the local cities. Congress will eventually appropriate the money, so they might as well just do it now to make things easier on all concerned.