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Tom Murse

Taxpayers Chipping in $36.5 Million for 2012 Political Conventions

By July 9, 2012

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U.S. Sen. Tom CoburnAmerican taxpayers are contributing more than $36 million to the Republicans and Democrats so the two parties can put on lavish conventions later this summer - even though their presidential candidates have already locked up the nominations.

Your money helps pay for much of the hoopla, from food and hotel rooms to gift bags and professional videography.

Outrageous? Some in Congress say yes.

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U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, a Republican from Oklahoma, has introduced legislation that would ban the use of taxpayer money for political party conventions and allow the parties to return that $36 million to the U.S. Treasury to help reduce the federal deficit.

"Besides funding the event itself, the money is used to pay for entertainment, catering, transportation, hotel costs, production of candidate biographical films, and a variety of other expenses," Coburn said.

"These events will be weeklong parties paid for by taxpayers, much like the highly maligned General Services Administration conference in Las Vegas. The $15.6 trillion debt cannot be eliminated over night. But eliminating taxpayer subsidies for political conventions will show strong leadership to getting our budget crisis in control."

The Republican National Convention will be held in Tampa, Fla., in late August. The Democratic National Convention will be held in Charlotte, N.C., in early September.

The taxpayer subsidies for political conventions come through the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. The account is funded by taxpayers who choose to contribute $3 to it by checking a box on the federal income tax returns. About 33 million taxpayers contribute to the fund every year, according to the Federal Election Commission.

The money covers less than a quarter of the costs of the conventions, according to congressional spending watchdogs. Critics of Coburn's legislation say eliminating the taxpayer subsidies would only invite more big donors and corporations looking to influence politicians to help fund the event.

"If Coburn was actually at all serious about cleaning up the conventions, he would have offered an amendment to ban to corporate financing of the conventions, but no such luck," Craig  Holman, a government affairs lobbyist for the watchdog group Public Citizen, told U.S. News & World Report.

"That wasn't what he was aiming for. This provides corporations and lobbyists with an ideal three-day setting to schmooze. This is influence pedaling at its worst."

Coburn's amendment to ban the use of taxpayer money for political conventions was tacked onto the Farm Bill and overwhelmingly passed by the Senate in June. The House is considering its own version of the Farm Bill, one without such a ban on taxpayer subsidies for conventions.

In other words: If you checked that little box on your federal income-tax returns to contribute $3 to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund earlier this year, tune into the conventions on TV later this summer to see how your hard-earned money is being spent.

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