Conventions 2008: Brought to You By Whom?

It wasn't always like this. Following a scandal over donations to the 1972 Republican National Convention, the government began giving the political parties public financing for the conventions. But the local host committees, which are officially separate from the national party, could still receive limited private money either through municipal bonds or corporate donations from companies with local ties to the host city. The local tie restriction was hard to enforce and by 2003 the Federal Election Commission did away with that rule entirely, allowing all corporate donations to the host committee.

In recent years amount of private money spent on conventions has skyrocketed. In 1992, private money to the host committees was just $8.4 million. Four conventions later, that sum is expected to be more than 1200 percent higher. And that's on top of the $16.8 million in public funds for each party convention committee and the $50 million congressional grants for security during each convention.

The fundraising hasn't always been easy, and both parties have been raising money until the very end. Democrats have struggled more, even reaching out to Barack Obama's campaign to help meet fundraising targets.

For their part, the host committees say they are not breaking any laws. "We follow all the rules and regulations created by the Federal Election Commission," said Chris Lopez, spokesperson for the Denver Host Committee.

Teresa McFarland, spokesperson for the Minneapolis Committee, echoed that and added: "Many of the donors and companies are people that really drive our economy and the idea that they need to buy influence or access through a political convention is a little bit unrealistic. If they need to reach someone they can probably just do that."

What's more, she said, the conventions are a boost to the local economy. "The exposure that comes to an area because of the national political convention is second only to the Olympics. It's priceless."

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