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LOL. Democratic convention $6 million over budget.


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This is the party to lead us. :wacko:

Delays and Rising Costs for Convention Raise Worries for Democrats David Scull/The New York TimesThe Democratic National Committee is organizing the August convention at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

By LESLIE WAYNEPublished: July 6, 2008For all Senator Barack Obama’s success at raising money and generating excitement among voters, he faces a daunting challenge as he prepares to claim the nomination in August: a Democratic convention effort marred by costly setbacks and embarrassing delays.


Enlarge This Image06convention2.190.jpgDavid Scull/The New York TimesThe Democratic National Committee, run by Howard Dean, above, is organizing the August convention at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

With the Denver convention less than two months away, problems range from the serious — upwardly spiraling costs on key contracts still being negotiated — to the mundane, like the reluctance of local caterers to participate because of stringent rules on what delegates will be eating, down to the color of the food. At last count, plans to renovate the inside of the Pepsi Center for the Democrats are $6 million over budget, which may force convention planners to scale back on their original design or increase their fund-raising goals.

The convention is being organized by the <A title="More articles about Democratic National Committee" href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/d/democratic_national_committee/index.html?inline=nyt-org">Democratic National Committee, which is run by Howard Dean, with his chief of staff, the Rev. Leah D. Daughtry, leading the effort. Only in the last month has the Obama campaign been able to take over management of the convention planning with the candidate claiming the nomination, and his aides are increasingly frustrated, as the event nears, at organizers who they believe spent too freely, planned too slowly and underestimated actual costs.

The Obama campaign has dispatched 10 people to Denver to help “get a handle on the budget and make hard decisions” about what has to be done and how to move forward, said Bill Burton, a campaign spokesman.

With Democrats seeking to use the convention to move past the bitterness of their bruising primary fight, the gathering in Denver Aug. 25-28 is likely to draw intense interest as the Obama forces try to show a once-divided party rallying around the nominee. And their convention comes a week before the Minneapolis gathering of the Republicans, whose convention efforts have been much smoother.

Some of the Democratic missteps started soon after planning for the event began. The Democratic National Convention Committee decided not to take cheap office space and instead rented top-quality offices in downtown Denver at $100,000 a month, only to need less than half the space, which it then filled with rental furniture at $50,000 a month. And in a costly misstep, the Denver host committee, early on, told corporate donors that their contributions were not tax-deductible, rather than to encourage donations by saying that the tax-exempt application was pending and expected to be approved.

Overly ambitious environmental goals — to turn the event into a “green” convention — have backfired as only three states’ full delegations have so far agreed to participate in the program. Negotiations over where to locate demonstrators remain unsettled with members of the national news media concerned over proposals to locate the demonstrators — with their loud gatherings — next to the media tent.

And then there is the food: A 28-page contract requested by Denver organizers that caterers provide food in “at least three of the following five colors: red, green, yellow, blue/purple and white.” Garnishes could not be counted toward the colors. No fried foods would be allowed. Organic and locally grown foods were mandated, and each plate had to be 50 percent fruits and vegetables. As a result, caterers are shying away.

For the Democratic Party, the danger is that a poorly run convention, or one that misses the mark financially, will reflect badly on the party and raise questions about Democratic management skills. And more worrisome for the Obama campaign is that it will be left with the bill for overruns or fund-raising shortfalls, and that the candidate will have to compete in raising money against a convention effort desperate for cash.

Natalie Wyeth, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Convention Committee in Denver, said the convention “is on track and we are confident that we are where we are supposed to be at this point in the game.”

She added, “We are exactly where we intended to be at.”

Ms. Wyeth also defended the party’s choice of office space, saying a cheaper alternative was rejected because it would have required extensive and costly improvements mandated by the city.

The Democratic convention is already running behind in its fund-raising. At last count, the convention was about $11 million short of the $40.6 million needed to stage the event — even before cost overruns were taken into consideration. This has prompted local newspapers to suggest in editorials that the Obama campaign should step in and begin to raise money for the committee.

Even more, those involved in the convention preparations portray Denver and party organizers as having squandered precious time, pushing critical decision-making into the final hours when it is more difficult to keep a lid on costs. Already, plans to have two dozen parties for the 56 delegations at locations throughout Denver were canceled, and instead there will be a single party at the city’s convention center.

“Major decisions are being settled only at the last minute,” said one convention organizer, who requested anonymity because of the confidentiality of the contracting process. “These contracts should have been out and signed last March or April. We still have no agreement on the budget or the scope of the work for the build-out at the Pepsi Center. There is no reason why it is so late, why important issues have not been addressed and why we are trying to figure these things out at the last minute.”

The Obama campaign is keeping a watchful eye on the process.

“Though there is much very hard work ahead,” said Mr. Burton, the campaign spokesman, “we are committed to having the best Democratic convention we ever had.”

Part of the problem, say those close to the plans, is a clash between the Obama campaign, which is tight-fisted about its money, and the Democratic convention committee, which failed to estimate properly the costs of the convention. As the Obama campaign begins to take over in Denver they are beginning to question why the party’s estimates for construction, entertainment and other components are so at odds with what actual costs are turning out to be.

“We are now going into the final construction phase, and it is turning out to be much higher,” said a person with knowledge of the budget, but who is not tied to either the Obama campaign or the party. “So the Obama camp is not pleased and is raising questions about where all the money had been going. And they look at the posh office space for the Democratic Party staff here, which is really plush, and they say, ‘They spent the money on that?’ ”

This last-minute scramble covers contracts to build the skyboxes, the podium and the news media center. The problems have forced organizers to consider — and reject — some cost-cutting proposals, like housing the media center in trailers or cutting out air-conditioning from the media tent.

Some of the efforts are being ridiculed by many in Denver. City Councilman Charlie Brown, a political independent, has devoted his monthly newsletter to “Food Fight” over the color-coded rules for convention food and is concerned that plans to handle the thousands of demonstrators expected to attend have not been fully thought out.

While Mr. Brown said he expects the city will “cowboy up” and have a successful convention, the lack of resolution about important issues like the demonstrators and food are “the donkey in the room.”

“We are having people say that they will be leaving town,” said Mr. Brown, who fears that the city could be in a no-win situation with the demonstrators — if there is insufficient police presence, the city could be overrun by them; if the police are overly aggressive, they will be criticized as overreacting.

And caterers, expected to feed the 40,000 people coming to town, are throwing up their hands over the food requirements.

“Everything that the Democrats did got off to a late start,” said Peggy Beck, a co-owner of Three Tomatoes Catering. “It was such an ordeal. We’ve jumped through hoops and hoops to bid on their stuff, and we had to have certain color food so the plates would be colorful.” In the end, the parties that she had been bidding on were canceled to save money. “This was some of the silliest stuff ever,” she added.

Nick Agro, head of Whirled Peas Catering, questioned whether the requirement for local organic food could meet cost constraints. “These were fantastic ideas, but I question who is willing to pay for these extra costs,” Mr. Agro said. “My experience is that it is all coming together slowly.”

In Denver, hotel space is also in short supply. James F. Smith, national political editor of The Boston Globe, said the Democratic Party could arrange only 5 of the 21 rooms his newspaper had required. And those are a 35-minute drive away at the Denver International Airport.

Dan Frosch contributed reporting from Denver.

07/28/2008 print_icon.gifPrint Thisforward_icon.gifForwardfeedback_icon.gifFeedbackdigg_icon.gifDigg This!subscribe_icon.gifSubscribeSponsored By:a0076979.gif For an East Coast liberal hoping to make it to Denver for next month's Democratic National Convention, air or car travel can create quite the carbon-foot printed nightmare. While the DNCC has attempted to help limit the number of guilty consciences by offering to sell delegates carbon credits alleged to help offset damage to mother earth, it turns out that a primary source of these credits is a sham.

As FaceTheState.com, a center-right news site (to which I contribute) reports, an eastern Colorado wind turbine "tapped for the [DNC's] carbon-offset problem has one problem: It doesn't generate any electricity."

Face The State went public with its discovery after a glowing feature in Saturday's Rocky Mountain News described the turbine "at the heart of the DNC's carbon-credit program" as "a windmill that toils day and night producing clean energy." http://' target="_blank">

In truth, the turbine doesn't work correctly and it never has. While it is turned on occasionally, the gesture appears largely for public relations reasons. After a February 15 ribbon cutting ceremony, Wray School RD-2 officials discovered that the turbine was incapable of producing much of anything. "We flipped it back off and on about ten times since then," Superintendent Ron Howard told Face The State. "It has run, it will run, but it won't run itself up to full capacity."

The DNC's "Green Challenge" carbon offsets program, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, promises special rewards for the state delegation most willing to "demonstrate the highest level of commitment to offsetting their carbon footprint from attending the Convention."

Through a partnership with Vermont-based Native Energy, delegates can purchase credits from four "clean energy projects" around the U.S., with the Wray turbine at the top of the list. A carbon offset, as described by the Pelosi pack, is a "carbon emission reduction that helps decrease the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that otherwise would be in our atmosphere. . . To help solve the global climate crisis, you should first reduce your energy use whenever and wherever possible, utilize renewable energy sources and be as efficient as possible with the energy you have to use."

Oh, and of course, to clear your conscience entirely, your carbon offsets must be purchased through the DNCC's partners. The reward for the best performing delegation is a "limited edition 'green' prize." For any delegate purchasing credits, he or she will receive a "unique wearable 'green item' for Convention week, available only to these delegates, and be recognized individually on DemConvention.com."

One unit of a "DNCC Special Blend" carbon offset will set you back $12. According to the DNCC, this will help offset the two tons of CO2 released on an East Coast to Denver flight for each passenger, with the revenue generated invested into new clean energy projects across the country.

But still, the DNCC warns, this isn't enough. The average American creates a carbon footprint of 20 tons of CO2 per year. To offset this entire amount, delegates will need to pony up an additional $108. This money, according to the DNCC Web site, will go toward "helping to build a new renewable energy project that will displace energy that would otherwise come from burning fossil fuels." The ultimate goal: To become "carbon neutral."

Despite the turbine's flaws, Gov. Bill Ritter's continues to tout it as an example of government innovation in clean energy. He is a man on a mission, putting out four press releases in the last month to demonstrate his commitment to a "new energy economy"; he started an advertising campaign reminding people to turn off their TVs, and has announced $150,000 in grants geared toward wind energy.

So will the turbine ever work? Maybe. According to Howard, the turbine requires replacement equipment, scheduled to be installed soon. "It's a new technology, so they don't have the bugs out of it," he told Face The State. "Since there's so many people watching [the turbine], they might be better served to go to a more reliable model."

In the meantime, the school district is cashing checks from America's Wind Energy, Inc., a firm that built the turbine. Howard declined to say how much the school is making off the turbine. Face The State's feisty managing editor Brad Jones has responded by filing an open records act request.

Jessica Peck Corry (Jessica@i2i.org) is a policy analyst with the Independence Institute in Golden, Colo., where she specializes in land use, higher education, and civil rights policy."

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This sounds exactly like something government would do. Not Democrat or Republican, but just government.

Shoot, both parties are more than happy to spend more and more and more, whether they have it or not. This is just a humorous example of it.

You know Obama's got to be shaking his head over this. "**** fools can't even throw a party without mucking it up!"


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