Gaining Perspective on Convention Spending

The sexy new questions regarding money in politics — if the word sexy can ever really apply to an issue that breeds contentiousness rather than agreement — is whether or not the political party conventions should be funded publicly, whether they are detrimentally expensive, and whether or not they are nothing more than an antiquated pep-rally that serves as a choir-preaching festival of back-slapping.

In fact, The Big Boss has a nice piece in today’s USA Today in which he agrees that some outrage regarding political spending is certainly in order; it’s just that the focus is in the wrong place:

Parties don’t incur the expense of national conventions just for the heck of it, and political engagement should be encouraged, not discouraged. Do we want government to prohibit people from spending their money for what they value?

Perhaps we should do what some so-called reformers want, and have the government pay for campaigns and conventions. Actually, the federal government already subsidizes each major party convention with about $18 million. Is this something we should spend tax dollars on? Which is a better source of outrage — a privately funded convention, or one funded with your tax dollars?

Worrying about convention spending is to mistake symptom for disease. If big labor, big corporations and lobbyists generally have too much sway, perhaps that is because government has too much power to dispense favors and run your life.

While some repudiate the amount the taxpayers are in the tank for a Party’s biggest party, others note that high-level officials think perhaps the 4-day convention might need to go the way of the dinosaur (interesting given that Mother Nature, in her wisdom, gave us a glimpse this week in Tampa of what a shortened convention could look like) to, ostensibly, help curb the cost. This does not suggest, I don’t think, that these officials think conventions are worthless and wastes of money. Rather, that perhaps the money spent could be better used. Which also puts the focus squarely on those responsible for stretching the dollar and doing more with convention spending in less time. The opposite approach is one being taken by the DNC who has (in rather cynical fashion) imposed a contribution limit on convention giving to appeal to grassroots groups over corporate interests. Apparently that approach is not working out so well. Because, as The Big Boss notes in USA Today, “Runaway government is the root of public corruption. Influence peddling is just a symptom.”