DNC acquires more concrete than cocktails for convention

With a target $40 million to toss around, you’d figure the Democrats would be planning one heck of a party in Denver. Although the Democratic National Convention’s host committee will surely spend a pretty penny on entertainment, most of that cash will be spent on less sexy items.

The committee, which is responsible for organizing the convention and related events, won’t provide a detailed list of its expenditures until Oct. 15, but past host committee receipts show renting and transforming convention space is the biggest expense, followed by computers and telephone systems.

This year the Democratic National Convention’s Denver Host Committee raised $29 million by mid-June and pledged to meet its goal of $40.6 million.

In 2004, the Democrat’s Boston organizers spent $3.5 million leasing the Fleet Center and $5.7 million to lease media space, according to a Campaign Finance Institute report.

And the New York 2004 Republican committee paid $5 million to rent Madison Square Garden, plus an additional $4.5 million to rent media space, according to the report. Parking space cost Boston organizers $690,000. Together, the Democratic and Republican host committees spent more than $57 million on convention facilities and production costs, or about 56 percent of their $102 million donation pool.

It doesn’t seem to be much different this time around.

“Most of the money gets spent on the Pepsi Center,” said Chris Lopez, spokesman for the Denver host committee.

Renting the Pepsi center from July to mid-September and renovating the building to accommodate delegates, members of the media and broadcast equipment inside and out will be the largest cost, Lopez said, although he could not provide an amount.

Democratic National Convention Committee spokeswoman Natalie Wyeth said construction at the Pepsi Center is the single largest expense but declined to release an itemized list of expenditures.

The move to Invesco Field on the final night will add to the cost of staging the convention, although an official figure hasn’t been announced. Preparing and staffing the extra venue could cost as much as $3 million, according to the Rocky Mountain News.

After securing and primping the various convention venues, setting up communication systems becomes the next big-ticket item.

Qwest, which is donating $6 million to both the Democratic and Republican convention planning groups, has split its Denver donation between $1 million in cash and $5 million in communication services.

Even if Qwest’s donation was all cash, the Denver organizers would probably be turning around to buy services from the hometown telecommunications giant.

In 2004, Boston spent nearly $3 million on a telecommunications system, while the New York’s planners paid $5 million for its phone system, according to the CFI report.

Level 3 Communications, a Broomfield-based networking company, has also pledged $1 million in-kind.

In-kind gifts provide important products and services at the convention but don’t offer the flexibility of cash donations.

Lopez could not provide a breakdown of what portion of the $29 million raised as of June was for “in-kind” donations.

In addition to the $40.6 million the host committee is contractually obligated to raise, it has also agreed to collect $9 million of in-kind donations, Wyeth said.

For example, Dale Carnegie Training, which will train the convention’s 15,000 volunteers, donated $1 million in services to the Denver convention.

“The figure was decided by assigning a value of $70 per participant with 15,000 participants. Dale Carnegie Training conducted similar training sessions with the Republican Party in 2004 but are not working with them at this point,” said Courtney Cashin, a company spokeswoman.

Other expenses that passed the million-dollar mark for both 2004 committees included insurance, convention transportation and, of course, the parties. According to the CFI’s report, the New York host committee poured $8 million into “hospitality events,” while Boston spent a mere $2 million wining and dining its convention attendees.

Colorado Independent reporter Naomi Zeveloff contributed to this report.

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J.C. O'Connell

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