© The Telegram &
February 26, 2004
The Salem News
Thursday, February 26, 2004
It's not my party and I'll cry if I have to pay for it.
Of course we all knew when the Democrats announced they would hold their 2004 presidential convention in Boston, that we Massachusetts taxpayers would be asked, if that is the right verb, to pick up some of the tab.
When they said it would cost only $49.5 million (not, you will note, $50 million, but $49.5 million), we knew they were underestimating - by millions of dollars - the total cost, just as they have done on public works projects like the Big Dig.
When they said it will all be raised privately except for anticipated federal funds for extra security, we knew they would eventually be looking to the public for a lot more.
Citizens for Limited Taxation, which is as close as I come to a having a party, put a section on its Web site in December 2002 called "Boston DNC Convention 2004: Anatomy of an inevitable taxpayer mugging," and started collecting news stories that would lead to the inevitable announcement that taxpayers will have to "chip in" for the good of democracy.
The political trick, as always, was to reassure everyone just long enough to reach the point of no return, and then dribble out the truth. So now it seems - at this early moment in the election year - the cost will be $65 million (subject to revision upward in the coming six months). Those private donors represented just the initial enthusiasm from the downtown Boston business community kissing up to the Democrats. So where, oh where, will the remaining dollars come from?
Do you have a mirror handy?
Are you a Democrat? Or, are you a Republican who would rather contribute to the Republican convention in New York? Do you belong to a third party, or, like me, are you an unenrolled independent who prefers not to pay for any party's party?
While you're looking at yourself, have a conversation. Regardless of your party status, can you think of anything worth supporting more than four days of multimillion-dollar political excess? Let your imagination run wild.
If you have no imagination, you might prefer to pay for a series of political speeches followed by people of diversity doing the Macarena or whatever funky dance is in vogue this year, surrounded by balloons and TV cameras.
I don't mean to pick on Democrats; it's just that the Republicans won't expect Massachusetts taxpayers to pay for their convention in New York. But while I'm thinking of them, let me ask you something:
Why do the Republicans need a convention this year? Don't they already know who their candidate is going to be?
And, now that we're thinking of it, won't the primary delegate counts tell Democrats who theirs is, too? If there's to be a convention, why was all that taxpayer money spent to hold primary elections?
Since there have been party conventions for as long as I can remember, I assumed that the Constitution or some law somewhere required them. It wasn't until I read recently that state or Boston taxpayers might have to pitch in more for the Democratic convention that I asked if it was really necessary to hold a convention - and learned that it is not.
George Washington was chosen by the first electoral college. The nation managed to elect the
Adamses, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe without a convention; so far, so good.
It wasn't until 1827, when a new party called the Anti-Masons organized against Andrew Jackson, that a convention was held. For more than a century, the big decisions were often made in "smoke-filled rooms" until the primary elections began to dominate the process in the 1950s.
The Constitution doesn't require conventions, there are no laws that order them. Primary or caucus voters in each state are deciding their party's ticket now. When they are done, President Bush will be the Republican candidate, and someone named John will be the Democrats'.
Do "delegates" of either party really have to junket somewhere to vote again? Can't they phone, fax or e-mail?
So if conventions aren't necessary, why did U.S. taxpayers through the Federal Election Commission contribute roughly $13 million to each party's 2000 convention? And why are we paying an additional $25 million just for each convention's security, or any aspect of their events? Not to mention the additional amounts that the Democrats now want from Massachusetts taxpayers.
If parties want to party somewhere, let them do it at their own expense.
It's not my party, and I don't wanna pay for it. Not any amount, not anything at all.
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her syndicated columns appear weekly in the Salem
News and Lowell Sun; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Providence
Journal and other newspapers.