Congressman Tom Cole: Enough Already!

Congressman Tom Cole

Regardless of political leanings, Americans should feel pride in the peaceful, advanced democratic system on display at this year’s presidential nominating conventions.  We should also try to feel proud of the balloons, banners, make-up consultants and gift bags.  Chances are, our tax money paid for them.

Since 1976, $220 million in taxpayer funds has been diverted to pay for conventions.  Coincidentally, 1976 was the last time a convention actually fulfilled the practical purpose of determining a nominee.  As I recently wrote in U.S. News and World Report, the 1976 convention was the first I ever attended, and it was consequential.  Although Gerald Ford held a slight delegate and popular vote lead going into the convention, the nomination fight went down to the wire.  After a number of twists and turns, Ford eventually fought off a strong challenge from Ronald Reagan to emerge the nominee by just 117 delegate votes.

Such a dramatic conclusion is a far cry from today’s conventions.  In 2012, just as in 2008, Americans have known the outcome of the nomination contest for months.  That is not to say that the conventions don’t still serve valuable functions.  The numerous speeches and associated media attention give Americans the opportunity to hash out our priorities and help viewers reach an informed decision.

Regardless of these benefits, there is no justification for squandering taxpayer money on these multi-day campaign infomercials while we struggle to simultaneously recover from a recession and prevent a debt crisis.  

With our $16 trillion national debt and 8.3 percent unemployment rate, it should be easy to agree on cutting obsolete, frivolous expenses from which no average Americans truly benefit. Not even the political parties derive crucial assistance from public funding. Although taxpayer money supplied 95 percent of convention costs in 1980, federal grants accounted for only 23 percent of funding resources in 2008.  Obviously, the parties are more than capable of raising enough money to pay for conventions without accepting taxpayer funding.

Each party accepted roughly $18 million this year for their conventions.  By contrast, our military is scheduled for $55 billion per year in cuts.  Eliminating public funding for conventions won’t prevent cost-cutting for defense and other vital government functions.  However, every dollar we save by doing away with unnecessary programs is one less we’ll have to cut from truly useful ones.

The House has passed my legislation to eliminate this outrageous practice, and the Senate has passed a similar bill.  Congress should act on final passage of this commonsense policy and work to cut other equally wasteful items so we can focus on more serious business.

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  1. dick grace, 02 September, 2012

    Stop this looting by politicians and get us back on the road to fiscal sanity.

  2. kingjames, 03 September, 2012

    Well the problem is that Tom Cole should not be the only one saying this about. party conventions. everyone should be making the same clear visioned debt ridden business decision tat needs to be made.


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