Convention Cash Faces The Ax in Favor of Pediatric Research

Thursday, 30 Jan 2014 12:51 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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The days that taxpayers have to shell out for martini bars and expensive cigars at presidential political conventions could soon come to an end under new bipartisan legislation.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has championed the bill in the lower chamber and now Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, also of Virginia, is hoping to push the proposed law through the Senate, according to The Hill.

The Gabriella Miller Kids Research First Act, which is named after a 10-year-old Virginia girl who had an inoperable brain tumor, would divert taxpayer subsidies for political conventions to pediatric research at the National Institutes of Health.

Before her death in October Gabriella fought for more federal funds to find a cure for childhood cancer, and her grassroots movement led to a moving CNN segment last month about her plight.

The four-day partisan shindigs, notorious for their heavy partying atmosphere, have long been a target for critics looking to make federal cutbacks. And although some Democrats thought the bill would not do enough to fund pediatric cancer studies, the measure easily passed the House.

Cantor has since received the backing of Sen. Kaine, a former Democratic National Committee chairman and a close ally of President Barack Obama, as well Democratic Virginia Sen. Sen. Mark Warner and Republican Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch.

According to the Hill, Gabriella Miller’s parents, Mark and Ellyn helped to convinced Kaine and Warner to push the bill through the upper chamber.

“It’s not creating a precedent or doing anything out of the ordinary,” said Kaine, referring to previous bipartisan attempts to end public funding for political conventions.

Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who has previously battled to ban federal money for the costly gatherings, noted that "conventions are a lot more lavish and expensive than they used to be."

Cole said that pediatric research is "a perfectly appropriate use of public funding, much better use than spending it on...political conventions."

In Congress, there are many who believe that the conventions, which allegedly have included martini bars and high-priced cigars, are out of control, and have urged that they be reduced from four days.

The Hill points out that experts claim that 23 percent of convention funding comes from the public, with the remainder paid for by sponsors. If passed, the bill will result in both the Democratic and Republican national committees having to scramble to come up with the extra cash for their conventions.

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