9 Investigates: Spending for Republican, Democratic national conventions



TAMPA, Fla. - Channel 9 investigated the spending for the conventions of the nation's biggest political parties.

The Republican and Democratic national committees each received $18 million of federal tax money to prepare for their conventions.

The one underway in Tampa and next week's in Charlotte, North Carolina.

While much of it pays salaries and rents office space, investigative reporter George Spencer found out it also pays for lavish parties and all the booze.

With political parties this large and well planned, convention preparations rain down big bucks on host states.

Small mom-and-pops like Orlando's Sunny's Transportation benefited with an extra day of work.

Larger companies raked in far more, but most taxpayers aren't aware they're footing the bill.

"The fact is, you should be very frugal. You should spend the money like the taxpayer knows you're spending the money," said consultant Dick Batchelor.

Congress gave each convention $50 million for security. The federal government gave $18 million more for preparation and planning.

But WFTV found that planning often involved expensive meetings in some of the finest restaurants around the country.

In hundreds of pages of filings for the Republican Committee on Arrangements, WFTV found an $1,100 meeting expense at the Capital Hill Club, D.C.'s members-only Republican hangout.

WFTV also found a $746 meeting at the Charlie Palmer Steakhouse.

In Tampa there were many charges at the private Tampa Club. A $1,400 meeting at refined Mise En Place restaurant, $231 at Total Wine and More, and even $46 at a Party City.

"You've got to be very careful, need to be very prudent on how you spend this money. You don't need to go to fine dining restaurants," said Batchelor.

Questions linger about Democratic expenses too, like more than $3,000 for a meeting at the Speedway Club near Charlotte.

There was $2,700 meeting at Mi Casa, a Mexican restaurant there, and a $572 bill for yet another meeting at Connolly's, described as one of the best Irish pubs to grab a pint in all of North Carolina.

WFTV contacted the convention committees to get an explanation. So far, only the Democratic committee responded, saying that all charges met the criteria they were given.