The Skyrocketing Cost of Being a Delegate

Delegates are spending thousands of dollars to attend the conventions.

ByABC News
July 22, 2016, 8:58 AM
Delegates pose for an official convention photograph on the opening day of the Republican National Convention at the Quicken Loans arena in Cleveland, Ohio, July 18, 2016.
Delegates pose for an official convention photograph on the opening day of the Republican National Convention at the Quicken Loans arena in Cleveland, Ohio, July 18, 2016.

— -- Brushing shoulders with lawmakers, voting on rules about how the country conducts its democracy, witnessing history in the making...attending a national convention as a party delegate can be a once in a lifetime opportunity for political junkies.

But it costs a pretty penny.

Several delegates at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland told ABC News they had to budget around $3,000 to $4,000 for the week. Eric Rohback from Washington State said a few people “deserved a spot, but declined to run due to family budget restraints.”

For security and transportation reasons, planning committees for both the RNC and Democratic National Convention requested that each state delegation stay at specifically assigned hotels where they had reserved blocks of rooms. The costs of those rooms, according to delegates, range from $300 to over $800 a night.

“I think everyone kind of has sticker shock,” said Christine Pellegrino, a Bernie Sanders delegate from Long Island, New York, who is attending the DNC next week. “We’re the 99. We are not the 1 percent, that is for sure.”

“For a lot of us, it is a heavy lift,” she added.

Pellegrino is staying at the Loews Hotel in Philadelphia, which was officially assigned to the New York delegation. The cost at the Loews, according several members of the state’s delegation, is approximately $500/night before tax.

Another New York delegate, Virginia Ramos Rios, said she thought local hotels had gouged prices. “I was surprised that the party, which is a national organization, had not negotiated better group rates considering that they have guaranteed occupancy,” Ramos Rios said.

She is taking the train from New York and budgeting $3,000 for the whole trip. Like many cash-strapped delegates, she started a GoFundMe webpage to crowdsource funds for the trip. So far, she has raised over $2,000.

In May, network engineer Raymond Braun launched the site that linked to fundraising websites for almost half the senator’s delegates. He said the majority of folks were budgeting between $3,000 to $5,000 for the convention, but for delegates arriving from Guam and Puerto Rico, the total cost could be as much as $10,000 for the week.

“These people are taking on debt to participate in the process,” Braun said. “We try to put out the proverbial fire. We see this problem with fundraising and said, ‘Let’s get a site up that aggregates all of these fundraising links.’”

Yamina Roland, a Sanders delegate traveling from California, is planning to stay with a friend in Philadelphia to save money.

“I don’t understand how you can leverage a block of rooms for thousands of people and the best rate you can come up with is $700 a night,” Roland said. “That is even bad business for, like, Trump. I think it was definitely done to keep those of out who are not establishment politicians or even die-hard loyalist Democrats.”

Many delegates are sharing rooms to save money, and some are missing work or taking vacation time to attend the conference.

Alma Hernandez, a Clinton delegate from Tucson, Arizona, agreed that money had played a big role in the delegate process.

“I think it’s a little unfortunate that some people are unable to go because they don’t have the funds for it,” Hernandez said, who also set up a fundraising page. “I wish that other people had the opportunity.”

Morgan Finkelstein, a spokesperson for the DNC, told ABC News in a statement: “We understand and appreciate the commitment that all of our delegates make to the nominating convention. Over the last three cycles in particular the internet has lowered the bar for participation by making it easier for potential delegates to get their message out and to leverage tools for crowd funding to help them perform this vital role.”

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