Sunday, July 29, 2007

Dems and GOP look countrywide for convention money

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As Denver (and St. Paul) try to raise money for the conventions, they are traveling far and wide:

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and his Colorado counterpart, Bill Ritter, each trek to New York this year on a mission. Their task: to persuade corporate executives to help sponsor the national political conventions being staged in their states next year. Ritter plays host to fellow Democrats in Denver in August 2008, while Pawlenty welcomes fellow Republicans to Minneapolis-St. Paul a month later. "A convention like this is an opportunity to showcase the city and state internationally," said Ritter, who is in his first term.

Organizers estimate it will take at least $100 million in corporate funds to underwrite the conventions, with grants from the Federal Election Commission accounting for only a fraction of the costs. Because Minnesota and Colorado aren't home to many Fortune 500 companies, elected officials from those states must travel across the country to make their pitches Ritter, for example, recently traveled to Chicago and Las Vegas and plans trips to Washington and Los Angeles.
To raise money for next year's events, organizers are offering donors everything from luxury seats at the convention hall to receptions with elected officials. In Denver, organizers even auctioned off the right to throw out the opening pitch at a Colorado Rockies game. (The winning bid: $3,150.)
Taxpayers help underwrite convention costs by designating a $3 contribution on their tax returns each year. That public money — about $16.5 million for each 2008 convention — has barely kept pace with event costs. Private funds account for a growing share of non-security expenses.
More on how the corporations are being hit up:
Organizers of the Republican and Democratic conventions are offering companies access to power brokers and the chance to lobby them as they try to pick up their fundraising pace a year before the events. The pitches for corporate sponsorship — such as golf with state and national GOP leaders for $2.5 million — highlight the role unlimited contributions known as "soft money" will play in staging the events.
Corporate donations are legal for conventions, but Fred Wertheimer, a critic of the practice and president of the non-partisan watchdog group Democracy 21, said the donations give companies "the opportunity to buy access and influence." In contrast, candidates are limited to raising campaign funds in chunks of $2,300 or less and cannot accept corporate or union cash.

In Denver, companies donating at least $250,000 can host talks with politicians on issues affecting their industries. Other private events with Democrats such as Rep. Diana DeGette also start at $250,000. DeGette said contributors aren't gaining special favors: "A reception that donors attend … doesn't in itself show any undue influence."

Molson Coors Brewing is giving $1 million to the Democratic convention. Spokesman Dan Lewis admits the donation gives his company, which also makes ethanol, a chance to lobby. He insists the donation reflects civic pride. "To have that many decision-makers of any party in your hometown is an opportunity you don't want to pass up," Lewis said.
Fundraising is lagging a bit, but Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper is not worried:
Hickenlooper has been making lots of trips out of town shoring up donations, and he's certain the money will be there at the finish line. "We've been raising lots of private money for the national convention. It's hard work; we're not a city with a lot of corporate headquarters, but we're looking outside of Denver," Hickenlooper said.

Local organizers and the Democratic National Committee have set a series of incremental "benchmarks" for raising $40 million in cash and $15 million in in-kind donations by June 2008. The host committee for the 2008 DNC said in early June it had fallen $2 million short of the $7.5 million in cash it hoped to raise by that point.

Hickenlooper said he has traveled to New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia and San Diego to meet with potential donors. "There's a lot of foundation work this year," Hickenlooper said. "I think we'll be alright. I'm not worried."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

DNCC opens convention office

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Less than 400 days until the 2008 convention opens, and the DNCC has now opened their Denver office:

A skeleton crew of the key staff who will run the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver next year has officially moved into its new office space here, its chief executive announced today.
Democratic National Convention Committee's CEO, Leah Daughtry, said the current paid staff of 10 has occupied some space on the 11th floor of Civic Center Plaza — the old Denver Post building — but will shift floors and employ up to 200 next year, bolstered by scores of volunteers, when the committee is expected occupy up to 70,000 square feet of the building. Daughtry, based in Washington, D.C., and currently the party's chief of staff, said she planned to move to Denver later this year.
More from the AP:
Daughtry said the convention committee is still talking with local labor leaders, who have objected that Denver does not have enough union workers to pull off the convention and isn't sufficiently supportive of organized labor.

Daughtry said party officials are working on security issues but predicted that disruptions would be minimal for Denver residents because the Pepsi Center, the main venue, is downtown and close to hotels and restaurants. “For Denver residents, it will be business as usual,” she said.

The office is currently situated in a suite on the eleventh floor of the Civic Center Plaza at 1650 Broadway, overlooking Civic Center Park. Daughtry said the full-time paid staff with soon begin swelling to an eventual 150-to-200 people, supplemented by numerous volunteers. The office in which Thursday’s press briefing was held will eventually be abandoned for two entire lower floors in the same office high-rise.

Monday, July 23, 2007

7500 interested in volunteering

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Interested in volunteering for the 2008 Democratic National Convention? Get in line:

About 7,500 people have already expressed an interest in volunteering during the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, the chief of the local host committee said today. "We've had 7,500 people who've sent their names to us," said Mike Dino. "The next step is to get (more) information and see who's serious."

An estimated 10,000 volunteers will be needed in the time preceding -- and during -- the convention.
Volunteer opportunities will range from staffing events and hospitality suites to doing office work and preparing materials for delegates and media. An estimated 35,000 people will be in town for the convention. Dino said that 50 volunteers would probably be needed by year-end to drive convention-related visitors around the city.

Volunteers, however, are unlikely to get access to the Pepsi Center during the convention. "Unfortunately, most of the people getting credentials will be from out of town," said Dino. "It's tough enough to get into the convention hall for folks who are staff for the VIPs."

The key to get a really good (i.e., meet interesting people, maybe get into the hall) volunteer job is not to be 1 of 10,000, but 1 of a very few. And a really good way to do that is to offer to volunteer for the whole summer. Especially for college students, offer to start in late May, and by the end of the summer you'll have a really rewarding experience no matter what you end up doing.

Or maybe you'll just get lucky. In 1976, the Saturday before the convention started, a high-school friend told me they needed volunteers downtown in New York. (No web registration!). I walked into a hotel ballroom with a few hundred people. Then, someone asked for 2 people who knew Manhattan really well. I raised my hand, and soon I was a messenger, constantly running paperwork to various hotels. (Even pre-fax!). After 4 days of running around the hot, humid, summer city, I was rewarded with passes into the convention on Wednesday and Thursday, getting to see Carter and Mondale give their acceptance speeches. Best memory was seeing them totally change overnight between Wednesday and Thursday the color scheme of the hall from the standard red, white and blue to Carter's green campaign color. Great stuff.

Click here to sign up to volunteer for the convention.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Director of Online Communications job opening?

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A number of sites have posted the following job opening, but it's not clear it's real since its not mentioned anywhere on the official convention web site. But it sounds legit, so here it is. The deadline to apply is July 30:

Senior member of Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) staff responsible for developing and implementing entire new media strategy and overseeing official website for 2008 Convention in Denver.

Among other responsibilities, Director will:

(1) Manage team of paid staff and volunteers in further development of content and functionality of during lead-up to and Convention week itself;

(2) Identify, retain and oversee communications with vendors and sponsors;

(3) Manage partner services relations; and

(4) Oversee outreach and relationships with the online community and work closely with media logistics team to develop blogger credentialing process for 2008 Convention.

Position runs from August 2007 through September 2008. Relocation date to Denver is negotiable.

Company Name
Democratic National Convention Committee
Company Website
Job Category
Marketing/Public Relations
Job Salary
Job Terms
Full Time Temporary
Application Deadline
Jul 30, 2007

Ideal candidate has experience running new media strategy for large online or offline events for political campaigns, corporations, and/or organizations. No political experience necessary.

How To Apply

Looking to hire immediately! Interested applicants should send resume and cover letter to with “ATTN: PUBLIC AFFAIRS” in the subject line.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Hotel chase continues

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Apparently union hotels are no longer the key to which hotel each state delegation wants to stay in. Working toilets are:

The group of out-of-town Democratic Party officials piled into the small bathroom of the Embassy Suites hotel room on Thursday and watched as Todd Taylor took a scrap of tissue paper, dropped it into the toilet and flushed. “Pretty good,” proclaimed Mr. Taylor, the executive director of the Utah Democratic Party. “But if you’re in a room any higher than the eighth floor, the flushing can be a problem.”

Despite the chuckles from his fellow Democrats, Mr. Taylor was serious about the toilet test because it might just determine where his delegation stays during the 2008 Democratic National Convention. After all, Utah delegates have complained about feeble hotel toilets in years past. On Thursday, Mr. Taylor, joined by representatives from 16 other delegations and a gaggle of national Democratic officials, meticulously inspected the toilets, beds and conference facilities at an assortment of Denver hotels, kicking off their search for accommodations during the convention, which will be held next August.

“Even though this is my fourth convention, you still hold your breath and try not to be overwhelmed by the magnitude,” said Cameron Moody, deputy chief executive of operations for the Democratic National Convention Committee. Mr. Moody is charged with arranging hotel rooms for the 5,200 delegates, alternates and state committee members. It is a daunting task that involves matching the needs of 56 delegations with the 22 hotels that have set aside rooms for them during the convention.
“How late does the bar stay open?” asked Caroline Valand, executive director of the North Carolina Democratic Party, as she strolled through the Denver Marriott South.
Each delegation wants its first choice, of course, and in the past some would submit only one hotel to make their point, Mr. Moody said. “Things usually end up sorting themselves out,” he said.

In case they do not, a lottery that was held in May will decide which delegation gets preference if two want the same hotel and there is not enough room. American Samoa, which is bringing a delegation of 13, is positioned to score a choice hotel because it gets the third pick in the lottery. Pennsylvania, by contrast, will bring a delegation of 206 but will pick 49th. (Utah has the first pick; Alaska the last.)
Utah’s dream of a centrally located hotel could come true this time, however. Buttressing its chances are its lottery pick and the fact that a significant portion of the 7,000 rooms reserved for the delegations and their families are within walking distance of the convention site, the Pepsi Center. The others are clustered in two outlying areas, Stapleton and the Tech Center, both less than a 30-minute ride from the convention.

“We’re able to plan this convention in a way we couldn’t do in a larger city,” Mr. Moody said. Such was not in the case in Boston in 2004, or especially in Los Angeles in 2000, when delegates were scattered pell-mell in surrounding suburbs.

It may be spin, but maybe being in a smaller city like Denver is providing some hotel benefits.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Late conventions, early primaries, could move up VP choice

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I started this blog when DNC Chairman Howard Dean announced that the convention would be held Aug 25-28, 2008, which was a great date both for both financial and political reasons, and eventually forced the GOP to start their convention on Labor Day. Elizabeth Wilner at The Politico notes another effect of the late summer date for both conventions:

In presidential election years, summertime traditionally is for running mates and conventions - though never quite in the way we’ll see a year from now.... Conventions mark the culmination of the biggest, most gamed-out draft pick in American politics: the selection of the running mate.

In 2008, that long-held custom will be threatened, as other political traditions already have been, by the unprecedented schedule and scale of this campaign. Running mates historically have been chosen within days, or at most, a few weeks before the start of a convention, then packed off on a grand tour that ends with a balloon drop. Sen. John F. Kerry’s choice of his colleague Sen. John Edwards, which came 20 days before the start of the 2004 Democratic confab, was unusually early compared to previous cycles. A lead time of about a week has been more the norm; in 2000, then-Gov. George W. Bush and then-Vice President Al Gore revealed their picks the week before their conventions began.
I would note that in 1976, Jimmy Carter, even though he had the nomination all wrapped up, did not reveal his choice of Walter Mondale to be VP until after Carter was officially nominated, on the morning of the last day of the convention.
In a cycle in which the identities of the nominees are expected to be known unusually early, adhering to tradition would mean that running mates get picked fatefully late. The 2008 presidential nominees could be anointed as early as Feb. 5. The Democratic and Republican conventions will take place during the last week of August and the first week of September.

It’s hard to imagine both nominees enduring such a stretch without the kind of help only a running mate can provide. Assuming that Feb. 5 proves decisive, they’ll face six and a half months of nonstop travel, relentless pummeling by the opposition and constant fundraising until the public campaign fund check arrives.

Another reason for a presidential nominee to pull the trigger early on a running mate would be to ensure that he or she captures the full attention of the media and the public. This announcement is the single biggest controllable news event any presidential campaign gets to stage before Election Day. Sticking to the old game plan of waiting until shortly before the conventions means that the respective announcements, like the conventions themselves, would bump up against each other.

An earlier decision also would leave time for a campaign to get its vice presidential subsidiary organization staffed up and running and give the second on the ticket some time to ease into the job. Waiting until shortly before the convention to announce the pick would give him or her just six to eight weeks before the traditional fall vice presidential debate.

The Democratic National Committee believed it was scheduling its confab for as late as, well, conventionally possible. Having seen how a late-August gathering worked to President Bush’s benefit in 2004 by giving him momentum against Kerry heading into the fall, the DNC has scheduled its event for Aug. 25-28. (The party also was shut out of most of that month in 2008 because of the Summer Olympics.)

Few really expected the Republicans to look beyond Labor Day, but hoping to repeat their 2004 success, that’s precisely what they did, besting the DNC in scheduling jujitsu by setting their convention for Sept. 1-4.

The decision that will confront the major-party nominees about when to choose their running mates will provide another example of how the trappings of traditional politicking must be revisited or even cast aside to enable candidates to better handle the particular rigors of this presidential race.

And for a gathering whose financially bloated, suspenseless existence is being questioned more and more, any weakening of its biggest selling point for the public and the press could strike the death blow for the nominating convention as we know it.
I think the long gap between the candidates being picked in March and the conventions at the end of the summer is going to have a number of unpredictable effects, the timing of the VP choice being only one of them. And I think the future of conventions is going to be a major topic next summer in the leadup to the conventions, and it will be very interesting to see how the 2008 conventions are covered, and how the parties respond in the future.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Pelosi named convention chair

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be the Permanent Chair of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, leading an all-female team of chairs and co-chairs:

Governor Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, announced today his intention to nominate Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of California to serve as Permanent Chair of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. Dean also announced that three outstanding leaders, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Chair of the Democratic Governors Association; Texas State Senator Leticia Van de Putte, President of the National Conference of State Legislatures; and Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, President of the National Conference of Democratic Mayors, will be nominated as Permanent Convention Co- Chairs. This distinguished group of strong Democratic leaders from all levels of government and all parts of the country exemplifies the vision, values and commitment to America's future that the Democratic National Convention will showcase in Denver.

"Our Party is bringing a new kind of leadership to our country at all levels," said Governor Dean. "We are extremely fortunate to have such a distinguished group of strong Democratic leaders chairing our Convention. I want to thank Speaker Pelosi, Governor Sebelius, state Senator Van de Putte and Mayor Franklin for their commitment to putting our presidential nominee on the path to victory for the November 2008 election."

The recommendations by Governor Dean will be presented to the Convention Rules Committee next summer and then voted on by the delegates to the 2008 Convention at the opening session. The Permanent Chair and Co-Chairs preside over the Convention proceedings, ensuring order, decorum and efficiency as the Party nominates its presidential and vice presidential candidates, adopts the National Platform and conducts other important business.
I would have to check, but this is likely the first all-female Chair team in the history of the convention. Pelosi comments:
"At the convention," she said, "Democrats will share with the American people our priorities and values that will take our nation in a new direction."

FEC approves $16.3M for conventions

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One piece of the money puzzle:

The Federal Election Commission today announced that each of the two major political parties’ convention committees will receive initial payments of $16,356,000 from the U.S. Treasury for planning and conducting their respective 2008 Presidential nominating conventions.
The FEC has certified that the two convention committees have met all eligibility requirements and the Commission today sent letters to the Secretary of the Treasury, requesting that the payments be made.

In exchange for public funding of the conventions, committees agree to certain requirements, including spending limits, the filing of periodic disclosure reports, and detailed audits.

You wonder what it would take for a 3rd party to meet the requirements to get this money.