Convention Wisdom

Party People in the Xcel Center?

If you think a magestic backdrop and a thriving bar scene will factor into the selection of the site for the '08 Democratic and Republican national conventions, the Center for Responsive Politics has some numbers for you. The D.C.-based money-in-politics watchdog group has just released a comparison of the five metro areas vying to host the confabs--to be clear, Minneapolis/St. Paul being one of the areas, not two. Cheeky watchdogs, they titled the report "'08 Presidential Conventions are Big Bid-Ness."

Why bid-ness? Because the bids may well hang on the willingness of a city's political patrons to step up and pay for cheese puffs, ice sculptures and balloons.

While contributions to presidential campaigns and the national parties are limited, unlimited private donations are allowed for conventions. The Federal Election Commission presumes that money contributed to host committees from private sponsors serves the interests of the city and is not politically motivated. A Campaign Finance Institute study concluded that this is an unreasonable assumption for all donors because "many of the firms also have strong federal interests as reflected by their political contributions and their chief executives' fundraising activities." A CFI task force found that the FEC's current policy towards host committee contributions is "inconsistent with the spirit, if not the letter" of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, which was intended to prohibit "soft money," or unlimited contributions from corporations, labor unions and other interests to the national political parties.

If you think all this means R.T. Rybak may get to do some nominating, you might want to hedge your bets. According to the report, 78 percent of Minnesotans may have voted for John Kerry in the '04 election, but 56 percent of Minnesota political donations went to Republicans.

Bonus reading for geeks who really care: There's a blog dedicated to tracking convention lobbying. The posts are signed by someone who styles himself simply Matt and has a seemingly boundless interest in arena square footages, traffic patterns and such.