No-shows by high-profile lawmakers to the Democratic National Convention — the most recent being Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill — are not the only headaches convention organizers are dealing with. The convention’s ongoing money shortfalls pose a bigger threat to the event itself, this time being held in Charlotte, N.C.
Convention organizers are pushing back against a report that fundraising for the event is well below expectations, potentially with consequences for its schedule.
On Tuesday, the Charlotte 2012 Convention Host Committee cancelled a kick-off rally at the Charlotte Motor Speedway that was intended to make up for a shorter convention schedule — the event had already been reduced from four days to three. Organizers insist moving activities to uptown Charlotte makes more sense logistically, but Bloomberg reported that Democrats were having serious problems scraping together money, with less than $10 million raised out of their $36.6 million goal.
Part of the difficulty: Democrats have decided to forgo corporate donations this year, which constituted a whopping $33 million of 2008’s costs. Labor groups are reluctant to close the gap given restrictions on unions in North Carolina and a lack of unionized hotels in the Charlotte area.
Suzi Emmerling, a spokesperson for the Charlotte 2012 Convention Host Committee, shot down Bloomberg’s report that money woes were at the heart of the move. “Money had nothing to do with the decision,” Emmerling told TPM.
The convention, Emmerling said, uses two different funds to host the convention, one for hospitality events taking place before the convention begins, and one for the convention itself.
“An event of this magnitude, it takes some time for certain details to fall into place,” Emmerling said. “As other details fall into place, realizing that all the caucus meetings would be uptown … it just works Uptown.” Emmerling said the move would facilitate easy movements between the festival and convention events such as caucus meetings.
Fundraising is just one of the concerns for national Democrats, as they prepare to parachute into a state that Obama won in 2008 but where there are strong political headwinds heading into 2012. The North Carolina Democratic Party is faltering, offering up an unwanted sideshow to the president’s renomination. The state party’s executive director, Jay Parmley, resigned in April after allegations surfaced (denied by Parmley) that he engaged in sexual harassment. In a horrifying turn, a woman claimed that he had infected her with HIV. North Carolina’s Democratic governor, Bev Purdue, is stepping down rather than face a tough re-election fight.
Despite the scandal and enormous pressure from party officials and White House officials, state Democratic Party Chairman David Parker resigned only to dramatically reverse himself and stay on after the Democrats’ executive committee narrowly voted not to accept his decision. Pittsboro Mayor Randy Voller described the ensuing pandemonium to the Charlotte News Observer as “a circus without the elephants.” The chaos surrounding Parker and Parmley has forced national Democrats to bypass the state organization in putting together their convention week.