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Democrats Cancel Speedway Event at Charlotte Convention

June 26, 2012

Democrats Cancel Speedway Kickoff for Charlotte Convention

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Photographer: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images for NASCAR

Democrats canceled a political convention kick-off event at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and will move the activities to Charlotte’s main business district, the convention’s host committee announced.

“While we regret having to move CarolinaFest away from our great partners at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and the City of Concord, we are thrilled with the opportunity that comes with hosting this event in Uptown Charlotte,” said Dan Murrey, the executive director of the Charlotte in 2012 Convention Host Committee.

The move comes as party planners are grappling with a fundraising deficit of roughly $27 million, according to two people familiar with the matter who requested anonymity to discuss internal party politics. With a party ban on direct contributions from corporations, the host committee has raised less than $10 million, well short of its $36.6 million goal, said one of the people.

Murrey said that logistics, not costs, were behind the decision to cancel the Speedway event.

“In order to facilitate public caucus meetings -- and to maximize accessibility, transportation, and proximity of all guests -- we have decided that moving CarolinaFest 2012 to Uptown Charlotte is the best way to achieve that goal,” Murrey said in a statement that the host committee released this morning, after Bloomberg reported last night that it may call off the Speedway festival.

Shortened Convention

In January, Steve Kerrigan, chief executive officer of the convention committee, said that Democrats were shortening their convention from four days to three “to make room for a day to organize and celebrate the Carolinas, Virginia and the South and kick off the convention at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Labor Day,” Sept. 3.

Kerrigan also announced that Obama would accept his party’s nomination at the almost 74,000-seat Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers professional football team. The outdoor finale would echo Obama’s convention speech at Invesco Field in Denver four years ago.

While the Democrats will receive a $50 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security to defray police costs for the Sept. 4-6 convention, security for the Speedway festival may not have been eligible because the event isn’t part of the official convention proceedings.

Republicans will also receive a $50 million grant for their four-day convention in Tampa, Florida, August 27-30.

Public Funding

Last week, the U.S. Senate voted 95-4 for a measure that would end public funding for both parties’ national nominating conventions, adopting an amendment from Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn.

Coburn has argued that it’s hypocritical for lawmakers to spend public money on their party conventions after criticizing the General Services Administration for spending $823,000 on a 2010 conference near Las Vegas.

The nominating conventions are funded through a combination of public and private money. Congress has appropriated $100 million for security at the conventions, with an additional $36 million going to the two parties for other convention expenses.

Republicans have not placed any restrictions on where they raise money and have secured corporate contributions from such companies as AT&T Inc. (T:US), Microsoft Corp. (MSFT:US) and Coca-Cola Co. (KO:US) to meet their $55 million target.

Corporate Contributions

Four years ago, corporate entities accounted for more than $33 million of the amount Democrats raised for the Denver convention, according to campaign finance reports. While Democrats have placed restrictions on how the Charlotte host committee, headed by Mayor Anthony Foxx and Duke Energy Corp. (DUK:US) CEO James E. Rogers, can raise money, with a ban on direct corporate donations and a $100,000 limit on individual contributions, corporations are allowed to give unlimited in-kind contributions, such as telephone and technology services or gift cards.

At the same time, Democrats in Charlotte have registered a second committee, New American City Inc., with the Federal Election Commission that does accept corporate contributions.

In April, representatives of the major U.S. unions, including the AFL-CIO, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the United Auto Workers, were given a tour of the convention sites in Charlotte as Democratic officials prepared to ask them to help cover their funding shortfall.

Labor organizations have been reluctant to contribute to the convention because Charlotte lacks unionized hotels and is in a state where compulsory union membership or the payment of dues is prohibited as an employment condition.

North Carolina is one of about a dozen states that Democratic and Republican strategists say are likely to determine the outcome of the presidential election.

To contact the reporter on this story: Hans Nichols in Washington at hnichols2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net


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