After new law, 2016 political conventions more beholden to wealthy donors By Aaron Stanley April 15, 2014 at 10:26 am While the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down limits on individual political donors captured the headlines last Wednesday, a new law signed by President Obama on the next day will also increase the political system’s reliance on wealthy donors. Known as the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, the new law will provide increased funding for childhood disease research. In a rare sign of bipartisanship, Obama and Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor posed for photos with the family of the young Miller, who died of brain cancer at just nine years of age. While the funding of research for childhood disease treatments is a noble cause, the means to this particular end is a bit more questionable. To fund the research, the law ends the Presidential Election Campaign Fund, a federal government subsidy to each political party to host their national conventions. This change effectively does away with yet another post-Watergate restriction on campaign money. In 2012, the federal subsidy was $36 million, combined, for Democrats and Republicans. The subsidy has typically increased by about 12 percent per presidential election cycle, and has been financed by a small, checkable box on federal tax returns, asking taxpayers if they wanted to donate $3 to the fund. Since the parties don’t want presidential conventions that are cheaper (less grandiose), they will have to look to large individual and corporate donors for more financial support. The presence of large, local donors in the Las Vegas area is thought to be one reason for the Republicans’ consideration of Las Vegas as the convention site in 2016, since each party needs to plug this new $20 million or so hole in their convention budgets. Nevada is an election swing state; parties often strategically place their conventions in such states. But Republicans are likely much more interested in tapping into the bank accounts of people like Sheldon Adelson rather than in capturing the state’s six electoral votes. So those with concerns about Mr. Adelson’s political spending largesse should be losing even more sleep over this latest development. While private funding of political conventions is nothing new (liberal activist groups have long railed against the buying of politicians via convention funding), Republicans and Democrats both will now have to work overtime in their schmoozing of top donors. Insiders fear that this change will only exacerbate the “piñata effect”, with wealthy donors across the board being shaken down for more contributions than ever before, and then expecting even more deference on public policy positions taken by parties. Last month’s “Sheldon Primary” shows just how much power comes from writing ten-million-dollar checks directly to candidate Super PACs. If the Sin City were to be selected for the 2016 Republican Convention, Mr. Alderson would have yet one more carrot to dangle before the party’s top brass, and so possibly yet more ammunition for his fight against online gaming expansion. Perhaps a question worth asking is whether party presidential conventions are worth holding anymore. Serious business was once conducted at these gatherings, but they are now highly-scripted dog-and-pony shows, except for the occasional over-the-hill film star performing an unapproved monologue. Not since the “Draft Teddy” campaign of 1980, when Democratic activists pushed Senator Ted Kennedy to run against incumbent president Jimmy Carter, has a convention had any real drama about who would win. Nor will we ever again see events similar to the Civil Rights-era controversies that tainted the Democrats’ meeting in 1964, or the demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic Convention. The new law means that those who pay for the 2016 conventions will certainly not be the same. It may be ironic that while party politicians will be even more reliant on big donors for such monies, and thus even more beholden to those such as Mr. Adelson, the usefulness of party conventions seems to have gone in the opposite direction.