Federal Politics

Published — August 20, 2004 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Counting the costs: Convention boosters promise a windfall that rarely materializes

Introduction

This year’s Republican convention in New York City is expected to cost by some estimates up to $166 million. Federal taxpayers will pay nearly $65 million of the tab (with $50 million of that amount paying for security), while at least $27 million will come from city money. Private donations will pay for at least $64 million of the cost.

That’s a far cry from the last time New York City hosted a national nominating convention. In 1992, then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton accepted the Democratic nomination for president in Gotham. Back then, the entire convention cost only $38.3 million, with New York City and New York State paying for $21.1 million of the tab, according to the Campaign Finance Institute.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has widely touted the convention as an economic shot in the arm, particularly for an area still trying to recover from the economic hit it suffered after September 11, 2001. But there is vigorous dispute about whether hosting a convention yields monetary benefits for the hosts or is simply a very expensive promotional tool oriented toward luring future tourism and convention dollars.

Bloomberg pitched his city to both the Democratic and Republican parties in 2002, promising them millions of dollars worth of free security services courtesy of the New York Police and Fire Departments. In 2002, while he was trying to lure both parties’ quadrennial nominating conventions, city leaders were in the midst of coping with budget cuts and tax increases in what one newspaper called New York’s “worst budget crisis since the 1970s.”

That same year, Florida officials, who were trying to lure the GOP convention to Tampa-St. Petersburg, publicly debated whether they wanted to commit anywhere from $15-20 million of taxpayer money to host the event. Florida newspapers noted the contrast, and highlighted Bloomberg’s boosterism and public relations dance.

“New York’s looming $6.4 billion budget shortfall also may present problems for Mayor Michael Bloomberg,” reported the St. Petersburg Times. “Bloomberg announced plans to raise property taxes by 18 percent, even as he said he planned cuts to city services, including police and fire.”

But when the 2004 convention selection was made, city officials urged New Yorkers to see it as an extremely positive development. “This is an incredible boost for New York City and the Republican National Committee’s decision shows that if you want to promote your ideas and vision for the country, there’s no place better in the world to do it than New York City,” Bloomberg said in a press release after the announcement. “We got exactly what we wanted: The convention, the profound economic activity it generates, and all of good publicity for our city that comes with it.”

Then the real hard work of the planning began.

Security measures undertaken for the convention have been unlike those for any previous Republican nominating convention gathering. With tens of millions of federal and city dollars earmarked for security, convention organizers in the city of Ground Zero took on the task of fortifying the Big Apple. Among the items Newsday reported that the city acquired in anticipation of the event included metal detectors, high-tech surveillance technologies, bomb-sniffing dogs, hand-held sensors, hydraulic barriers, radiation detectors, X-ray bomb detectors, bio-chemical kits, night vision technology, antidotes to various bio-weapon ingredients and a mobile lab.

As in Boston, the Secret Service took charge of the security plans and worked with local officials to determine what would be closed and what would remain open and to whom. Among the safety measures to be undertaken during the convention are:

  • Closing more than 20 Manhattan city blocks to traffic during the convention, including portions of Seventh and Eighth Avenues from West 42nd to West 23rd Streets.
  • Limiting the use of some Penn Station and subway exits and entrances.
  • Restricting use of sidewalks in the vicinity of Madison Square Garden.
  • Limiting on-street parking, as well as garage parking because many neighborhood garages have been booked by private groups.
  • Subjecting to inspection all deliveries to businesses.
  • Detouring commuters taking trains from New Jersey into Manhattan to Hoboken, forcing them to transfer to different trains or ferries.

The New York Times reported in July that closing six of Penn Station’s eight exits would affect more than 600,000 commuters each day. The Village Voice reported that a memo from building management was left on the doormats of residents living in a 3,000-unit co-op building near Madison Square Garden warning them of the impact the convention would have on their day-to-day activities. “If at all possible, stay inside during the times the convention is in session,” and added, “Be sure to shop for extra food and water,” The Village Voice said.

When New Yorkers complained about some of the closings and potential negative impacts on the city because of the convention, Bloomberg said that the measures are “not that big a deal” and that complainers should “get a life,” according to the Associated Press.

Reflecting on the impact the Democratic convention had on rival city Boston, New York Times writers Michael Cooper and Michael Slackman had these pieces of advice for New York as it prepared to welcome the GOP:

  • Don’t expect a business bonanza. Fear of gridlock and efforts to tighten security led Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino to urge many Bostonians to go on vacation or work from home during the convention . . . [T]he city’s great shopping streets and restaurant rows were eerily quiet.”
  • Don’t feed the delegates.” Delegates got free food at parties and events throughout the city, leaving restaurants virtually empty.

Of the 572 Democratic delegates Boston Globe reporters polled about their experiences in Boston during the July convention, 54 percent of them told the newspaper that they spent less than $500 during the week, while 73 percent said they stayed very close to their hotels and the convention center. “I’ve had a lot of free food, I absolutely admit that,” one Iowa delegate said. “And there’s been a ton of receptions. My God, those are open bars and open food. And I’m no fool. I’m as good as the next person. I’m going to take what’s offered.”

The real impact on New York City may begin to be assessed once all the bills for the convention start rolling in and Manhattan companies tally their receipts. For President Bush, the impact will likely be measured in a two-day Gallup poll immediately following his speech.

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Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Trump needs to conduct these activities because the entire MSM media, excluding Fox, is campaigning against him 24/7/365.

Didn’t Monica’s boyfriend’s wife and various criminal enterprises outspend Trump by almost 2-1?

CapitalistRoader
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CapitalistRoader

Why wouldn’t he get an early start on fund raising? Hillary outspent him two-to-one in 2016. The Dem’s are the party of big money. The President knows this and is attempting to get a jump on it. Of course the Dem candidate will outspend him in 2020 so it’s only rational that he starts fund raising now.

George Young
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George Young

Oh brother. We just 8 years of the Campaigner – in – Chief. Where was this journalistic rectal thermometer then. Just another article about 2000 words too long that merely takes another slap at Trump for something he far from initiated.

j stevenson
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j stevenson

The big difference between Trump and all the rest is his refusing to accept funds from lobbyists, so they don’t have the White House access they are used to. These are the donors who buy the presidency and are as pixxed off that he won the election as are the media and the Dems. Lobbyists have never been shut out of the WH and Trump has told them he is not for sale.

jan v
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jan v

all the lobbyists are running all our government agencies and all the career civil servants who know how to run the country have been fired. YOU think this is a good thing ? what a crock…

thomas alessi
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thomas alessi

I am for Trump

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Trump needs to be impeached and tossed in prison. Then have the key thrown away so he will never be free. Then he can see how it feels not to have freedom.

Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Thank you for the usual insightful leftist low IQ Snowflake response.

barney
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hes not imprisoning them hes sending them back to their country chill tf out

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

WHY DONT YOU HAVE FREEDOM?

Tom Larkin
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Tom Larkin

First, something positive. I was happy to learn of empirical information in article. BUT, the article was so slanted against President Trump as to be deemed fake news (“Perhaps Trump just lied.” (Two different issues)). The article mentions that President Trump raised over $67 million, but ended 2018 with $19 million. President Trump spent over $40 million 2016 and 2017. President Trump conducted 57 political rallies. The article notes the hats and T-shirts sold, but NEVER MENTIONS THE INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF REPUBLICAN SENATORS during a mid-term election that lost the House and the number of political rallies in… Read more »

Ted Sirois
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Ted Sirois

At least Trump is getting donations from willing donors. Fresh from his first election, Obama used billions of our children’s tax dollars to save thousands of union jobs in the car industry and bailed out the banks and many Wall Street businesses. This secured his source of reelection funds for his reelection four years later.

South Jersey
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South Jersey

TRUMP 2020; IS AN AMAZINGLY SMART MAN! VERY ORIGINAL & CREATIVE. I AM HAPPY TO HAVE HIS AS POTUS.

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

THIS ARTICLE WAS OBVIOUSLY WRITTEN BY, A TRUMP-HATE-GROUP. THAT FEELS; IT IS NOT NORMAL TO BE SUCCESSFUL WITH YOUR OWN BRAND NAME. WHEN, IF FACT, IT IS NORMAL! >>>>> THIS IS >>> FAKE NEWS!!! <<<< ie: A PACK-OF-LIES; SPUN INTO; DEFAMATION OF CHARACTER. FOR A SINISTER-AGENDA OF; FASCIST DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST, COUP D'ETAT

David
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David

Are you on some kind of drugs? Writing in caps makes me think that you are grumpy old fart or a uneducated hillbilly.