By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
Late last year, a real estate agent from the western suburbs had a bright idea: With as many as 50,000 people coming to town for the RNC, why not rent his house out during the convention? Say, for $12,500?
When no one responded to his Craigslist ad, he dropped his asking price. Then he dropped it again. Now, his palatial pad, located just 20-ish minutes from the Xcel Energy Center, can be rented for a mere $6,900.
Has the price-chop helped?
"There's nothing concrete yet," he says with a sigh.
You'd think the story of this man, who insisted that his name not be used, might serve as a cautionary tale. But not so much.
In the past few weeks, more than 700 would-be landlords have posted ads to Craiglist hoping to rent their homes to visiting Republicans during the first week of September. Some are even offering fringe benefits: free rides to and from the airport, clean sheets, and refrigerators stocked with milk and donuts.
Yet of the more than three-dozen Craigslisters contacted by City Pages not a single one has rented out so much as a broom closet.
When asked if she had any tips for these hopeful hosts, RNC spokeswoman Melissa Subbotin responded curtly.
"Advice?!" she shot back. "We do not offer advice! And we do not coordinate with private homeowners regarding the renting of their houses."
Representatives of the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce, while more cordial than Subbotin, were not much more helpful.
"I don't know that we'd be in a position to give advice," said Chamber spokeswoman Liz Bogut.
Ryan Kelly doesn't offer advice, either. But he does help explain the dynamics at play.
Not long after St. Paul was announced as the RNC's 2008 destination, the son of former St. Paul mayor Randy Kelly teamed with a group of local Republican power brokers including former Norm Coleman chief of staff Erich Mische, former 3M chief lobbyist John Milne, and tobacco lobbyist Al Schofe to form a new company. Take'08 Events Unlimited, as they dubbed it, specializes in setting visiting RNCers up in style.
"People are less likely to take a gamble on a place on the internet rather than dealing with somebody they have a face-to-face relationship with," Kelly explains. "And our clients love to deal with an organization that has strong local ties here and have everything taken care of under one roof."
Take'08 won't release specifics, but Kelly says the firm has been the middleman for dozens of home rentals for the RNC, from mansions on Summit Ave. to one-bedroom condos downtown.
The company is one of a handful of firms founded by Republican operatives keen to cash in on their Twin Cities connections. Also on the list is former congressman Vin Weber's Twin Cities Strategies, which isn't to be confused with political consultant Scott Cottington's GOP Convention Strategies.
So the deck was stacked against enterprising Craigslisters all along. But they may take some comfort in this: With the RNC already blocking off 16,000 hotel rooms, and with the vast majority of attendees having booked their rooms months ago, even Take'08 isn't renting much of anything out at this point.
"Inventory has far outstripped demand," says Kelly.