A bipartisan push to eliminate millions of federal dollars earmarked to each party’s conventions was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate on Thursday, handing a win to critics who say taxpayer money shouldn’t be spent on orchestrated presidential nominating coronations at a time of severe budget constraints. By a 95-4 vote, the bill was adopted by the Senate as an amendment to the farm bill, a rare show of bipartisanship on an issue involving campaign finance. The bill, proposed by Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), would prevent future conventions from receiving federal dollars through the Presidential Election Campaign Fund, a program that is bankrolled by about 33 million taxpayers who each year voluntarily check a box on their tax forms directing $3 to the fund.
That amounts to $18.3 million this year for each party’s convention. The money can be spent on any number of things, from staff salaries to catering costs to fancy decorations. The bill is intended to prevent taxpayer money from being used in future presidential elections for anything other than security at the conventions. It would not affect this year’s conventions. But in an attempt to pressure the party conventions to return their funds this year, the measure says any reimbursed money would be used for deficit reduction purposes.