WASHINGTON (AP) — A Republican senator has asked both political parties to refund the millions of federal dollars each has received to help pay for this summer's presidential nominating conventions.
In a letter to leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said the two gatherings will be "weeklong parties paid for by taxpayers." He also compared them to recent revelations about a lavish conference the General Services Administration held in Las Vegas.
Even Coburn's party is spurning the request. Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said Friday that the meetings play an important role in the nominating process and that if Coburn had other ideas for financing future conventions, "he should address them through the legislative process."
Democratic spokeswoman Kristie Greco said that, contrary to Coburn's comments, her party will use the federal money "to fund the functions necessary to renominate the president and vice president."
Coburn, a frequent critic of spending he considers wasteful, wrote Thursday that with the national debt growing by more than $1 trillion annually, the government should stop paying for travel and meetings.
"To demonstrate that both of our parties are committed to fiscal discipline, it would be a great act of statesmanship to return these funds," Coburn wrote.
Each party has received $17.7 million in federal money for the conventions. Each is expected to receive an additional $630,000 to cover inflation.
Public funds finance only a portion of each party's convention costs, with millions more dollars raised privately.
Taxpayers can voluntarily designate some of their taxes to cover publicly financed presidential campaign expenses. By checking a box on their income tax returns, individuals can provide $3 from their tax bill while married couples can contribute $6.
According to the Federal Election Commission, the portion of taxpayers contributing to the presidential campaign fund has declined steadily from a high of 29 percent of returns filed in 1980 to 7 percent in 2010.
The Republican convention will be held in late August in Tampa, Fla. The Democratic convention will be in Charlotte, N.C., in early September.