Saturday, July 05, 2008

Obama campaign not happy with convention preparations

WE'VE MOVED! Democratic Convention Watch is now at

The NY Times reports that the Obama campaign is not pleased with what they've found in Denver:

Only in the last month has the Obama campaign been able to take over management of the convention planning with the candidate claiming the nomination, and his aides are increasingly frustrated, as the event nears, at organizers who they believe spent too freely, planned too slowly and underestimated actual costs.

The Obama campaign has dispatched 10 people to Denver to help “get a handle on the budget and make hard decisions” about what has to be done and how to move forward, said Bill Burton, a campaign spokesman.
Some of the Democratic missteps started almost immediately after planning for the event began. The Democratic National Convention Committee decided not to take cheap office space and instead rented top-quality offices in downtown Denver at $100,000 a month, only to need less than half the space, which it then filled with rental furniture at $50,000 a month. And in a costly misstep, the Denver host committee, early on, told corporate donors that their contributions were not tax-deductible, rather than to encourage donations by saying that the tax-exempt application was pending and expected to be approved.
For the Democratic Party, the danger is that a poorly run convention, or one that misses the mark financially, will reflect badly on the party and raise questions about Democratic management skills. And more worrisome for the Obama campaign is that it will be left with the bill for overruns or fund-raising shortfalls, and that the candidate will have to compete in raising money against a convention effort desperate for cash.
“Major decisions are being settled only at the last minute,” said one convention organizer, who requested anonymity because of the confidentiality of the contracting process. “These contracts should have been out and signed last March or April. We still have no agreement on the budget or the scope of the work for the build-out at the Pepsi Center. There is no reason why it is so late, why important issues have not been addressed and why we are trying to figure these things out at the last minute.”
Part of the problem, say those close to the plans, is a clash between the Obama campaign, which is tight-fisted about its money, and the Democratic convention committee, which failed to estimate properly the costs of the convention. As the Obama campaign begins to take over in Denver they are beginning to question why the party’s estimates for construction, entertainment and other components are so at odds with what actual costs are turning out to be.

“We are now going into the final construction phase, and it is turning out to be much higher,” said a person with knowledge of the budget, but who is not tied to either the Obama campaign or the party. “So the Obama camp is not pleased and is raising questions about where all the money had been going. And they look at the posh office space for the Democratic Party staff here, which is really plush, and they say, ‘They spent the money on that?’ ”

It seems like these issues have been around a while, so this information must be coming out of the Obama campaign, which I guess is trying to put some pressure on the DNCC - or maybe just trying to assign blame if things go wrong in Denver.

But then this begs the question: If the convention is truly over-budget and behind schedule, why is the Obama campaign introducing a major wrinkle - moving the Thursday night acceptance speech to Invesco Field - and thereby causing even more budget and planning issues?

Update: Dean and Daughtry respond:
The New York Times asserts that this is a Democratic convention effort “marred by costly setbacks.” That is false. In fact we are ahead of the game. Anyone who has ever worked on a national political Convention would tell you as much. This is a well managed Convention.

The New York Times states that the Convention is facing “upwardly spiraling costs on key contracts still being negotiated.” That is false. All major contracts have been executed and we are on track to move in to the Pepsi Center to begin build out on Monday as planned.
The New York Times reports that Democrats are $6 million over budget in Convention planning and have failed to estimate costs properly. That is false. From day one, prudent budgeting and financial management have been an important part of our Convention planning – across the board.