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Convention Slush Funds

by RALPH NADER

Chairman Reince Priebus
Republican National Committee
Phone number:202-863-8500
Fax number: 202-863-8773

Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Democratic National Committee:
Phone number: 202-479-5100 ‎
Fax number: 202-226-2052

Dear Chairpersons:

The tough times in America continue. Tens of millions of Americans are feeling the squeeze and are suffering diminished livelihoods. More than 15 million children go to bed hungry at night. Unemployment and underemployment affect more than twenty million adults. Calls for cutting into the core of programs for the needy, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged regularly emanate from Congress.

These calls are coming most insistently from the Republican leaders. Congressman John Boehner, Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and Senator Mitch McConnell are demanding severe reductions in effective social programs and more tax cuts for the wealthy and the large corporations, many of which have been paying very little or no federal income tax, such as General Electric.

Against this background, what have the two parties done? This year they have each taken $18.2 million in taxpayer money for their national political conventions in Tampa, Florida and Charlotte, North Carolina later this summer. The money comes from taxpayers via the Treasury Department’s “$3 Tax Check-off” found on tax return forms.

Taxpayers who check-off are told that the money generally goes “to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund.” Taxpayers are not told the first priority is funding for the party nominating conventions, not the general election nominees and primary election candidates.

Taxpayers who opt for this partial public funding of elections may not like funding political extravaganzas for the two parties, festooned by banners, musical entertainment, food, drink and other amenities. They might not want their tax dollars associated with nearby lavish corporate hospitality parties loaded with lobbyists lusting for access, subsidies and other special privileges.

They might not want to have their tax dollars mixed with corporate contributions to the two conventions from the oil, drug, insurance, banking, nuclear, military weapons and agribusiness-food processing giant multinationals.

When your two parties in Congress established this slush fund for the conventions years ago, they tried lamely to justify the use of taxpayer contributions for the conventions by declaring that televised conventions were educational presentations; live democracy in action. That didn’t pass the laugh test then or now. The nominations are all wrapped up. The conventions will be coronations of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The party platforms are done deals.

Party rituals, the mutual admiration exchanges and the scripted, pre-cleared speeches by selected speakers are the highlights of these uncontested, predetermined, rigged shows of inaction.

Pay for your own parties, your own liquor and your own entertainment.

Return the misled taxpayers’ $36.4 million to the U.S. Treasury now. Or if you wish to receive some benefit from this modern version of “l’etat c’est moi,” donate the money to the Tampa and Charlotte charities that are feeding the hungry poor and homeless. Their menu will certainly be different than yours, but they (with their strapped budgets) certainly will be pleased by the gesture.

I have sent copies of this communication to charitable associations that provide food and other necessities for the growing number of impoverished Americans in Charlotte and Tampa. The recipients were Second Harvest Food Bank, Loaves and Fishes, and Faith Soldiers in Charlotte, North Carolina; and Feeding America, Kaye Prox Food Bank, and Metropolitan Ministries in Tampa, Florida. Those compassionate providers and their volunteers, reached on the telephone, were gracious regarding the meaning of this message to you.

Other citizen, charitable and religious groups in these two metropolitan areas may be inclined to emphasize this request with their own manifestations later next month. You would be well-advised to wisely render their reactions unnecessary by taking this humane initiative.

Should you not respond to this plea, which I am sure would be supported by the vast majority of the American people of all political persuasions, your conventions could be labeled the “Marie Antoinette cabal of 2012.” Surely, you remember what she suggested.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

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