Spending spree: Where does the convention money go?

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An accounting of the exact costs of national presidential nominating conventions cannot be made until after the multi-day event has concluded. Host committees are not required by law to reveal details of how they spend their money until after the convention. Even then, they typically report overall numbers for wide ranging categories for types of spending, not individual line items. As for the party committees formed to handle the convention expenses like the Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC), those committees must submit line items detailing each expense related to the convention.

The Center for Public Integrity has reviewed thousands of FEC documents detailing DNCC disbursements during the 2000 convention in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles 2000 host committee’s spending and DNCC disbursements for the 2004 convention in Boston, from October 2002 through March 31, 2004. Select expenses were entered into databases for analysis. However, because of the incomplete or unclear nature of many of the line items—where it sometimes wasn’t obvious what the good or service was—the disbursement numbers here may not reflect the total amount spending per category or vendor.

The Center categorized the data from the DNCC for both the Los Angeles and Boston conventions by four main categories: Payroll and consulting, travel and lodging, production/video/media and parties/catering/events. Costs for items like office expenses, copying and telephone expenses, and expenses where the good or service purchased is unclear, were left out of the databases.

The Los Angeles host committee lumped its spending into far larger categories—there was no itemization—so it was hard to blend the numbers from the host committee with the DNCC numbers.

2000 Democratic National Convention Committee disbursements:

Starting with the DNCC data for the 2000 Democratic convention in Los Angeles, the Center analysis found the top categories of spending to be:

  • Payroll and consulting, $6.7 million ($2.28 million on legal consulting and $2.8 million on salaries).
  • Travel and lodging, $2 million ($1 million on lodging, $499,381 on airfare and $418,164 in miscellaneous travel expenses).
  • Production/videos/media, $1.48 million.
  • Parties/catering/events, $1.13 million ($493,327 on catering, $267,233 on production consulting, $98,056 on choirs and bands).

Among the top individual recipients of 2000 DNCC money:

  • Automatic Data Processing, payroll and tax processing, $1.48 million.
  • Wilshire Grand Hotel, Los Angeles, lodging, $358,659.
  • Levy Restaurants, catering, $322,538.
  • Entertainment Partners, production consulting, $234,039.
  • Caraway Group, consulting, catering and travel costs, $221,726.

Individual line item totals by category:

Consulting

  • Sandler & Reiff, legal consulting, $166,077.
  • Kenoff & Machtinger, legal consulting, $137,500.
  • Ricky Kirshner Productions, production and legal consulting, lodging costs, $110,720.
  • Dickstein, Shapiro, Morin & Oshinsky, legal consulting, catering and other costs, $103,402.
  • Sheehan Associates, Inc., legal consulting, production/video and travel costs, $83,490.

Travel/lodging

  • United Airlines, travel, $203,447.
  • Holiday Inn, LA, lodging, $95,147.
  • AirComm, travel, $78,893.
  • The Biltmore Hotel, lodging, $45,832.
  • Westin Bonaventure, lodging, $43,971.

Parties/catering/events

  • Kelli’s Balloon Studio, balloon and confetti drop, $150,000.
  • La Party Rents, catering, $23,782.
  • USC Trojan Marching Band, $32,272.
  • D&D Golf Service, event, $12,589.
  • Angel City Chorale, $7,165.

Production/video/media

  • Callahan Creative, production/video, $190,000.
  • Smith Hemion Productions, production and legal consulting, travel, $154,517.
  • Mozark Productions, production/video, $150,000.
  • Backhand Productions, audio/video, $140,000.
  • The Post Group, production/video, $66,459.

Miscellaneous

  • Democratic National Committee, salaries, $207,082.
  • Democratic Victory 2000, production/video, $151,929.
  • Democratic National Committee Travel Offset Account, $146,635.
  • Roderick O’Connor, salaries, travel, $115,631.
  • Democratic National Committee Payroll Account, $87,646.

Los Angeles Host Committee disbursements

An analysis of the Los Angeles 2000 host committee’s disbursements isn’t directly comparable to the DNCC expenses because the host committee lumped its expenses into broader categories and reported expenses in those categories, as opposed to individually itemized.

Here are the disbursements, by the categories on the host committee’s FEC filings:

  • Acquiring equipment, transportation, security, volunteers, $12.59 million.
  • Construction/production, $6.88 million.
  • Delegate events, $2.7 million.
  • Telephone, $1.14 million.
  • Salaries, $731,397.
  • Conference, convention meetings, $586,616.
  • Compensation of officers, directors, $287,510.
  • Fund raising fees, $285,676.
  • Computer/web site, $185,824.
  • Publications, $167,969.
  • Site selection, $121,104.
  • Occupancy, $106,257.
  • Consulting, $85,902.
  • Legal fees, $81,302.
  • Activities supporting the convention, $54,446.
  • Travel, $40,780.

The top salaries among the host committee officials:

  • Cheryl Carter, CEO, $202,010.
  • Annette Castro, fund raising consultant, $163,176.
  • Lucy McCoy, president, $87,500.
  • Reed & Davidson, legal, $81,302.

2004 Democratic National Convention Committee disbursements (Oct. 2002-March 31, 2004)

The analysis of the DNCC spending for the 2004 convention in Boston does not paint a complete picture, as much of the heavy convention spending has yet to occur. The Center reviewed the documents detailing spending from October 2002 through March 31, 2004. Here’s a summary of the results:

  • Payroll and consulting, $2.6 million ($1.34 million on salaries, $494,389 on legal consulting, $95,280 on political consulting fees).
  • Travel and lodging, $150,236 ($58,843 on lodging, $54,842 on airfare, $31,262 on miscellaneous expenses).
  • Production/video/media, $30,217 ($24,000 on media consulting).
  • Parties/catering/events, $16,917 ($8,499 on catering, $7,746 on gifts/trinkets).

Among the top individual recipients are:

  • Automatic Data Processing, payroll and tax processing, $592,536.
  • Democratic National Committee Payroll Account, $301,232.
  • Roderick O’Connor, salary and travel, $124,199.
  • Zoe Garmendia, legal consulting, $109,168.
  • Lee A. Satterfield, salary and travel, $106,474.

Individual line item totals by category:

Consulting

  • Sandler & Reiff, legal consulting, $90,293.
  • A.C. Public Affairs/Alice A. Huffman, convention consulting and travel, $60,399.
  • Ricky Kirshner Productions, Inc., legal consulting and travel, $41,713.
  • QRS Newsmedia, legal consulting, $41,632.
  • Richard Q. Boylan, legal and political consulting and travel, $41,136.

Travel/lodging

  • World Wide Travel, $17,974.
  • Democratic National Committee Services general fund, travel, $11,468.
  • Re/Max Waterfront, Boston, lodging, $5,750.
  • Capital Hilton, lodging and audio/visual purchase, $2,991.
  • Harbor Garage Inter Parking, $2,465.

Parties/catering/events

  • Penguin Group, gifts, $3,037.
  • Perry’s Gourmet Service, catering, $1,369.
  • Jules Catering, catering, $1,015.

Production/video/media

  • Projection Presentation Technology, Capital Hilton Hotel, media, $2,639.
  • Panoramic Visions Photography, $1,374.

Top DNCC salaries (including travel reimbursements)

  • Roderick O’Connor, $124,199.
  • Lee A. Satterfield, $106,474.
  • D. Cameron Moody, $53,530.
  • Philip McNamara, $52,909.
  • Erica DeVos, $50,205.