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The Oklahoman: Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn and Rep. Tom Cole Hail Bill to End Political Convention Funding

March 12, 2014
News Stories

The Oklahoman - Chris Casteel

A bill approved by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday achieves a goal long sought by Sen. Tom Coburn and Rep. Tom Cole — abolishing taxpayer funding of national political conventions.

The legislation, which would redirect money for the conventions to pediatric disease research, was approved by the House in December and now goes to the president for his signature.

Cole, R-Moore, has been working since 2009 to end the funding, which amounted to $36 million in 2012 for the Democratic and Republican parties’ national conventions. The House and Senate have previously approved legislation by Cole and Coburn to end the convention funding, but this is the first time a final version has cleared both houses.

The conventions are held every four years to officially nominate the parties’ presidential candidates. However, the nominating has become a formality for the past few decades, as the candidates have had the support sewn up for months, and the conventions have become made-for-television showcases for parties’ campaign themes.

“As a former chief of staff at the Republican National Committee, I know firsthand that political party conventions can be funded easily by private sources alone,” Cole said Tuesday.

“The Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act takes this money that we know is currently being wasted and gives it real purpose at the National Institutes of Health. It allows NIH researchers to advance their study of pediatric diseases, including cancer and autism, and potentially discover new treatments and cures.”

Coburn, whose 2011 “Wastebook” put convention funding at the top of the list, called on the parties in 2012 to return the taxpayer money, but Republican and Democratic party leaders refused.

Coburn, R-Muskogee, said Tuesday, “Hardworking taxpayers will no longer have to fund summertime party junkets for the political class.”

Coburn said the legislation also set an important precedent: cutting spending on something — political conventions — to pay for new spending elsewhere — pediatric disease research.

“Historically, Washington has considered that principle to be unusual,” Coburn said. “But in the real world it’s called common sense and living within your means. We need more of that in Washington.”

Online: The Oklahoman