A Florida Democrat is sounding the alarm over Wednesday’s vote in Congress to cut off millions of taxpayer dollars for a presidential nominating convention.
The Republican convention.
It's not necessarily a sign of new bipartisan harmony. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, is going to bat for the opposite party's convention because the GOP gathering to pick the party's next presidential nominee will be held in her city in August 2012. "I cannot let my local taxpayers in Tampa be on the hook for one dime," Castor said.
What's causing her to fear they will be? This week's House 239-160 vote to eliminate a 36-year-old fund, provided by taxpayers' voluntary contributions, that underwrites presidential campaigns and conventions. Doing away with the fund will save $617 million during the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The House vote, mostly along party lines, pitted Republicans eager to start paring the federal budget against Democrats who say that public financing helps level the playing field for lesser-known and less-wealthy candidates.
The two cities that last hosted the 2008 nominating conventions, Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul, received about $17 million each from the fund. Democrats haven’t selected a location for their 2012 gathering, so Tampa is the only city so far that is potentially affected by Wednesday’s vote.
“I’m the only one out there with a convention,’’ Castor said.
Rep. Gus Bilirakis, a Republican who represents the outskirts of Tampa, voted with other Republicans to eliminate the public financing of conventions. He is confident that the convention will receive sufficient money for security costs from another federal source: the Justice Department.
“His main concern is making sure the event is secure, and this vote will not affect that,’’ said Creighton Welch, a spokesman for Bilirakis.
Castor isn’t so sure. She said that budget cuts are certain to affect the pot of money at the Justice Department for special-event security, which directed $50 million to each convention city in 2008.
“You know the kind of budget battles were about to enter into,’’ she said. “When you put up the convention money from the Justice Department against things like Head Start and education, it will be very difficult to justify.’’
Castor is hoping that the Democratic-controlled Senate will kill the legislation to eliminate the fund, established after the Watergate scandal to try to curb the influence of special interests.