A bipartisan push to eliminate millions of federal dollars earmarked to each party’s conventions was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate on Thursday, handing a win to critics who say taxpayer money shouldn’t be spent on orchestrated presidential nominating coronations at a time of severe budget constraints.
By a 95-4 vote, the bill was adopted by the Senate as an amendment to the farm bill, a rare show of bipartisanship on an issue involving campaign finance.
The bill, proposed by Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), would prevent future conventions from receiving federal dollars through the Presidential Election Campaign Fund, a program that is bankrolled by about 33 million taxpayers who each year voluntarily check a box on their tax forms directing $3 to the fund.
That amounts to $18.3 million this year for each party’s convention. The money can be spent on any number of things, from staff salaries to catering costs to fancy decorations.
The bill is intended to prevent taxpayer money from being used in future presidential elections for anything other than security at the conventions. It would not affect this year’s conventions.
The amendment would not affect federal dollars going to the conventions for security reasons, and Congress already appropriated $100 million for the RNC and DNC to use for that purpose.
Now you could argue that with each campaign raising close to or over $1 billion, $18 million could be covered by the campaigns. But a candidate in a contested race, like Romney, isn't going to have $18 million available when it's needed. If this is approved in the House, which seems likely, and if signed by Obama as part of the overall bill, this is going to have a significant impact on future conventions.