As DNC convention heads to Phila., fund-raisers gear up for $84 million challenge

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Placards pushed to bring the Democratic National Convention to Philadelphia in 2016. TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer

Philadelphia's biggest hurdle in securing the 2016 Democratic National Convention was convincing the selection committee it could come up with the money, organizers said.

Now that the gig belongs to the city, it comes with an $84 million fund-raising challenge.

Amid celebration Thursday were promises Philadelphia can bring in the money, even with a concurrent fund-raising push to raise $45 million for Pope Francis' visit in September.

Mayor Nutter said the plan was to rely on federal and private dollars and use no city funds for the weeklong political fest.

"We will not have any trouble raising money for this convention. Folks are excited, they are ecstatic, they are enthusiastic, and we will enthusiastically and ecstatically take their money to support this particular convention," he said to laughs at a news conference announcing Philadelphia's selection.

The city bested finalists Brooklyn, N.Y., and Columbus, Ohio, for the event, which is slated for the week of July 25.

Philadelphia DNC chairman - and former governor and mayor - Ed Rendell outlined where the money would come from. The Philadelphia DNC committee raised $5 million in advance of the selection, received $12 million more in pledges, and Rendell said he expects additional state money.

In 2000, then-Gov. Tom Ridge committed $7 million to the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.

State officials have not confirmed any money so far this time, but a spokesman for Gov. Wolf said it was a possibility.

"The governor has said he will consider providing funding to the convention and he is committed to making sure it is a success for Pennsylvania," said the spokesman, Jeff Sheridan.

Security costs - not counted in the $84 million - should be covered by a federal grant, officials said. In 2012, Charlotte and Tampa received $50 million each for security. Nutter said he expects that federal funds would offset local and national security costs, including police overtime.

Philadelphia opted not to bid on the 2012 Democratic National Convention, citing financial reasons. That convention went to Charlotte, which fell $8 million short in its fund-raising goal. But the fund-raising rules have eased since then.

In October, the Federal Election Commission granted a bipartisan request to create a separate fund-raising organization, essentially doubling what donors can give political conventions. Donors may now contribute an extra $32,400 toward convention expenses on top of other political contributions allowed during an election cycle.

The FEC decision came after President Obama ended public funding for conventions. In 2012, he diverted $18 million from conventions to research on pediatric disease.

Rendell called the 2000 Republican National Convention one of the most successful nominating conventions in the last 25 years. Philadelphia, in which only one in eight registered voters is a Republican, raised $64 million for that.

Philadelphia's 2016 DNC committee used that figure, adjusting for inflation, to come up with its $84 million goal, Rendell said.

Comcast executive David L. Cohen, a prodigious national fund-raiser and chief of staff to Rendell when he was mayor, will serve as senior advisor to the committee that is raising money for the effort.

Daniel J. Hilferty, president and CEO of Independence Blue Cross, is helping with fund-raising efforts for both the DNC and the World Meeting of Families, the weeklong Catholic event that will culminate with a Parkway Mass said by Pope Francis.

Hilferty shrugged off speculation that donor pockets could be over-picked, noting the World Meeting of Families is already near its $45 million target.

A long list of heavy-hitter fund-raisers from the corporate, legal, nonprofit, and labor sectors have signed on to help with the political convention, including John J. Dougherty, head of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 98.

"I think they'll be able to raise everything that's needed, plus," Dougherty said. "I think it's a significant election - and we'll be nominating a president in one of the last great union hotbeds and in a city not only of neighborhoods but a city of working families - these people are excited about having the Democratic National Convention."

 


BY THE NUMBERS

$84M

Fund-raising goal for the 2016 Democratic convention.

$17M

Amount raised or pledged so far.

$64M

Amount Philadelphia raised for the 2000 Republican convention.

$45M

Fund-raising goal

for Pope Francis' visit in September.

$32,400

Amount donors may contribute toward convention expenses on top of other political contributions.


jterruso@phillynews.com

215-854-5506 @juliaterruso

Inquirer staff writer Amy Worden contributed to this article.