Federal Funding of Presidential Nominating Conventions: Overview and Policy Options

Federal Funding of Presidential Nominating
Conventions: Overview and Policy Options
August 22, 2008
R. Sam Garrett
Analyst in American National Government
Government and Finance Division
Shawn Reese
Analyst in Emergency Management and Homeland Security Policy
Government and Finance Division

Federal Funding of Presidential Nominating
Conventions: Overview and Policy Options
This report provides an overview and analysis of two recurring questions
surrounding the federal government’s role in financing presidential nominating
conventions. First, how much public funding supports presidential nominating
conventions? Second, what options exist for changing that amount if Congress
chooses to do so? Both issues have generated controversy in the past and continue
to be the subject of legislative debate. Four bills introduced in the 110th Congress
propose changes to the structure or amounts of federal funds for presidential
nominating conventions. Those bills (H.R. 72, H.R. 484, S. 436, and S. 2412) would
affect Presidential Election Campaign Fund (PECF) convention grants. (Two other
bills, H.R. 776 and H.R. 4294, would affect nonfederal convention funds.) Congress
enacted one law (P.L. 110-161) in FY2008 that affected convention security funding
with the appropriation of $100 million for the Democratic and Republican
nominating conventions (each were allocated $50 million). This security funding is
not provided to party convention committees but to the state and local law
enforcement entities assisting in securing the convention sites.
A total of approximately $133.6 million in federal funds has supported, or will
support, the 2008 Democratic and Republican conventions. Such funding is provided
through separate federal programs that support public financing of presidential
campaigns and convention security. Some Members of Congress and others have
objected to federal convention funding and have argued that the events should be
entirely self-supporting. Others, however, contend that public funding is necessary
to avoid real or apparent corruption in this aspect of the presidential nominating
process. If Congress decides to revisit convention financing, a variety of policy
options discussed in this report might present alternatives to current funding
Additional discussion of public financing of presidential campaigns appears in
CRS Report RL34534, Public Financing of Presidential Campaigns, by R. Sam
Garrett. For additional information on National Special Security Events, which
include presidential nominating conventions, see CRS Report RS22754, National
Special Security Events, by Shawn Reese. This report will be updated in the event
of additional legislative activity concerning convention financing.

In troduction ......................................................1
Convention Financing: An Overview..................................2
Federal Funds.............................................2
Nonfederal Funds..........................................6
Recent Legislative Activity..........................................9
Legislation that Would Affect PECF Convention Funding..............9
Policy Issues and Options...........................................9
PECF Convention Funding......................................9
Maintaining the Status Quo.................................10
Options that Could Increase or Decrease Federal Convention
Funding ............................................10
Security Funds...............................................12
Maintaining the Status Quo.................................13
Options that Could Increase or Decrease Federal Convention
Security Funding.....................................13
Conclusion ......................................................14
List of Tables
Table 1. Federal Funds Supporting the 2008 Presidential Nominating
Conventions ..................................................4
Table 2. Legislation Introduced in the 110th Congress that would Affect
PECF Convention Funding......................................9

Federal Funding of Presidential Nominating
Conventions: Overview and Policy Options
Every four years, the two major political parties, and some third parties, select
their presidential nominees at conventions. These conventions are run by and for
parties, without a formal role for the federal government. Federal funds do, however,
provide certain financial support to convention committees that choose to accept
public money. Additionally, Congress appropriates federal funding for the securing
of the convention venues.
A variety of policy issues surrounds convention financing. Some observers have
questioned why federal funds subsidize conventions considering the availability of
substantial private resources and that they are party, rather than governmental, events.
Others have contended that private funds, particularly so-called “soft money,” which
falls outside the scope of federal campaign finance law, have become too pervasive
in conventions and that tighter restrictions are needed. These divergent views on the
use of public funds to support party conventions also appear in other contexts in the
broader debate surrounding campaign finance policy.
Two taxpayer-supported revenue sources are available to conventions: (1)
presidential public campaign funds; and (2) security funds. Approximately $133.6
million from those sources have gone or will go toward the 2008 Democratic and
Republican national conventions. No third parties received convention funds for the1

2008 election cycle.

Before proceeding, it is important to note the distinction between presidential
public funds and security funds. Presidential public funds and security funds come
from separate revenue sources. They are allocated differently, are used for different
purposes, and are subject to different points of debate. Although both presidential
public funds and security funds both support conventions, Congress may reassess
them separately.

1 Although third-party conventions are occasionally eligible for presidential public financing
grants, Congress has only appropriated security funds for the 2004 and 2008 Democratic and
Republican conventions.

Convention Financing: An Overview
Federal Funds. Two sources of federal funds support different aspects of
presidential nominating conventions. First, funds for convention operations come
from the Presidential Election Campaign Fund (PECF), which provides financial
assistance to publicly financed presidential candidates.2 Second, funds are
appropriated by Congress to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for security costs
incurred by state and local governments hosting the conventions.
PECF Funds. Congress makes no appropriations for PECF funds (including
amounts used to support conventions). Rather, amounts in the PECF are determined
by “checkoff” designations on individuals’ federal income tax returns. Individuals
may choose to designate $3 of their tax liability to the PECF. Married couples filing
jointly may designate a total of $6 to the fund.3
Federal law permits the two major parties’ conventions to receive grants of
$16.8 million for the 2008 election cycle (an inflation-adjusted base amount of $4
million each). These grants are awarded to the relevant party’s convention
committee.4 Qualifying convention committees are not obligated to accept PECF
funds, but doing so is standard practice. Third parties are eligible for limited public
convention funds, but they rarely qualify.5
Under federal law, PECF convention grants must first be reserved before other
elements of presidential public funding can be distributed. Once convention grants
are reserved, the Treasury Department may distribute general election grants and
primary matching funds to participating presidential candidates.6 The Federal
Election Commission (FEC) determines eligibility for PECF funds based on
requirements established in Title 26 of the U.S. Code (the Internal Revenue Code),
the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), and FEC regulations.7

2 On the PECF, see 26 U.S.C. § 9001 et seq. and CRS Report RL34534, Public Financing
of Presidential Campaigns. Convention funding was added through the 1974 Federal
Election Campaign Act (FECA) amendments. See P.L. 93-443; 88 Stat. 1263.
3 The checkoff question does not permit taxpayers to distinguish between making a
designation to publicly financed presidential candidates versus to publicly financed
conventions. In other words, taxpayers may choose to make a PECF designation, but may
not specify how those funds are distributed or spent.
4 Convention committees are separate political committees (i.e., candidate committees, party
committees, and political action committees (PACs)) “responsible for conducting the day
to day arrangements and operations of that party’s presidential nominating convention,”
including receiving public funds. See 11 C.F.R. § 9008.3(a)(2).
5 26 U.S.C. § 9008(b).
6 On prioritization of convention funding, see 26 U.S.C. § 9008(a).
7 FECA is 2 U.S.C. § 431 et seq.

DOJ Funds. The second source of federal convention funds come through the
Office of Justice Programs (OJP), within the Department of Justice (DOJ). This OJP
funding has only been available in FY2004 and FY2008, arguably as a result of the
September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.8 In 2004, Congress appropriated $100 million,
through DOJ, for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominating
conventions in Boston and New York City.9 More recently, Congress appropriated
$100 million for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominating convention
security in Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul, respectively.10 In 2008, the $100
million is to be administered through OJP’s Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local
Law Enforcement Assistance Programs. DOJ, reportedly, will use most of this
funding to reimburse state and local law enforcement entities for overtime costs
associated with convention security.
Even though DOJ administers the convention security funding, DOJ is not
responsible for security at the presidential nominating conventions. Rather, the U.S.
Secret Service (USSS) is responsible for planning, coordinating, and implementing
security operations at conventions. Congress authorized the USSS — when directed
by the President — to be the lead federal agency for convention security in P.L. 106-
544 (the Presidential Threat Protection Act of 2000) because the conventions are
designated as National Special Security Events (NSSE).11 In addition to presidential
nominating conventions, NSSEs include such events as presidential inaugurations,
major international summits held in the United States, and some major sporting
Recent Federal Convention Funding. As Table 1 shows, the federal
government provided (or will provide) a total of approximately $133.6 million —
combining PECF grants and security expenditures — to support the 2008 Democratic
and Republican conventions. Each convention is allocated approximately $66.8

8 However, federal assistance for convention security has been provided in at least one
election year prior to 2004. According to The Campaign Finance Institute, in 1980 the cities
of Detroit and New York City received “Federal Law Enforcement Assistance grants” of
$3.2 million and $3.5 million respectively for convention security. Steve Weissman with
the assistance of Margaret Sammon and Jennifer Sykes, Inside Fundraising for the 2008
Party Conventions: Party Surrogates Gather Soft Money While Federal Regulators Turn
a Blind Eye (Washington: Campaign Finance Institute, 2008). See the table entitled
“Sources of Funding for Major Party Presidential Nominating Conventions, 1980-2004,”
which is not paginated.
9 In P.L. 108-287 (An Act Making Appropriations for the Department of Defense for the
fiscal year ending September 30, 2005, and For Other Purposes), Sec. 11002, Congress
appropriated $25 million for Boston and $25 million for New York City convention security.
In P.L. 108-199 (An Act Making Appropriations for Agriculture, Rural Development, Food
and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies for the Fiscal Year Ending September 30,
2004, and for Other Purposes), Sec. 103, Congress appropriated $50 million for the 2004
presidential nominating conventions.
10 P.L. 110-161, Div. B, Title II.
11 For information on the U.S. Secret Service’s missions, see CRS Report RL34603, The
U.S. Secret Service: An Examination and Analysis of Its Evolving Missions, by Shawn

million. In 2004, federal funding for the Democratic and Republican conventions
totaled approximately $129.6 million ($29.6 million in PECF funds and $100 million
in security funds).
Table 1. Federal Funds Supporting the 2008 Presidential
Nominating Conventions
(in millions of dollars)
Presidential Election
Campaign Fund
(PECF) GrantsSecurity FundingTotal Federal Funding
Democratic $16.8 $50.0 $66.8
Republican $16.8 $50.0 $66.8
T otal $33.6 $100.0 a $133.6
Sources: PECF data appears in U.S. Treasury Department, Financial Management Service,
Disbursements From the Presidential Election Campaign Fund and Related Payments,” July 31, 2008;
provided to CRS by the Office of Legislative and Public Affairs, Financial Management Service. Theth
110 Congress appropriated $100 million (through OJP) for securing the 2008 presidential nominating
conventions in P.L. 110-161, Div. B, Title II.
Notes: Amounts in the table are rounded. CRS aggregated totals in the table.
a. This amount does not include any funding that the U.S. Secret Service may expend in protecting
major presidential candidates at the conventions.
No third parties qualified for any federal funding in 2008 or 2004. A third party
most recently received PECF funds in 2000. That year, the Reform Party reportedly
qualified for $2.5 million in federal funds.12 Congress has never appropriated funds
for a third party’s convention security.
Conditions on PECF Funds. In exchange for receiving public funds, a13
party’s convention committee must agree not to raise or spend additional funds.
Certain exceptions are permitted for legal or accounting fees. (As is discussed later
in this report, nonfederal funds also supplement conventions, although those funds
do not flow through the convention committees.) Among other requirements,
convention committees receiving public funds must file disclosure reports with the
FEC, agree to provide the commission with any requested documents, and submit to14

an audit of their PECF spending.
12 Anthony Corrado, “Public Funding of Presidential Campaigns,” in Anthony Corrado,
Thomas E. Mann, Daniel R. Ortiz, and Trevor Potter, eds. The New Campaign Finance
Sourcebook (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2005), p. 191.
13 26 U.S.C. § 9008(d).
14 11 C.F.R. § 9008.3.

Federal law places relatively few restrictions on how PECF convention funds
are spent, as long as purchases are lawful and are used to “defray expenses incurred
with respect to a presidential nominating convention.”15
FEC regulations provide additional guidance on permissible and prohibited
spending.16 Per FEC regulations, permissible PECF convention expenses include
items such as:
!“preparing, maintaining, and dismantling” the convention site;
!personnel and staff expenses (including bonuses);
!convention operations and planning;
! securi t y; 17
! transportation;
!certain entertainment;
!administrative items (e.g., office supplies);
!gifts for convention staff or volunteers (limited to $150 per person
or $20,000 total);
!production of candidate biographical films; or
!investment of PECF funds if the profits are to be used to defray
convention costs.18
It is important to note, however, that although federal regulations permit the types of
spending described above, individual convention committees do not necessarily
choose to fund all of those activities.
Convention committees are prohibited from spending PECF funds on items
!candidate or delegate participation in the convention, except in
limited circumstances;
!any item that would violate federal or state laws;
!penalties resulting from enforcement of federal election law; or
!replacing lost or stolen items, except in limited circumstances.19
Conditions on Security Funds. There are no conditions on security funds
per se; however, convention security funding can only be used for costs associated
with specifically identified presidential nominating conventions. In 2008, the
Democratic convention in Denver, and the Republican convention in Minneapolis-St.
Paul are the only ones authorized to receive federal security funding. This funding
is primarily used to directly reimburse state and local law enforcement entities for

15 26 U.S.C. § 9008(c).
16 Convention committees seeking specific guidance can consult the Federal Election
Commission or legal counsel for additional information.
17 Although PECF funds could be spent on security, it is likely that security would be paid
for with other federal funds discussed elsewhere in this report.
18 11 C.F.R. 9008.7(a).
19 11 C.F.R. 9008.7(b).

their expenses, thus neither major party is an eligible recipient of this security
The $100 million Congress appropriated for the FY2008 presidential
nominating conventions will be, reportedly, primarily used to reimburse state and
local law enforcement costs associated with their participation in securing the
convention sites. In 2004, the main security costs that state and local law
enforcement entities incurred involved overtime payments. This overtime of state
and local law enforcement personnel might be the result of their participation in not
only securing the convention venue, but participating in such activities as advance
planning, conducting liaison for venue and air space security, training, and
establishing and maintaining communications.20
Additionally, there are other security costs incurred by the federal government
associated with the conventions that are not part of the $100 million appropriated in
FY2008. Some of these additional security costs include the USSS protection of
major presidential candidates (whether at the convention or at other campaign
locations)21 and the use of other federal government personnel assisting in securing
the convention sites, such as Federal Protective Service law enforcement officers.22
Other federal security costs include the securing of the convention venue through the
positioning of fencing and barricades, as well as pre-positioning federal law
enforcement K-9 units and other teams such as the U.S. Department of Homeland

20 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Secret Service, Office of Legislative Affairs,
“National Special Security Events: Meeting the Counter-Terrorism Challenge”
(Washington: 2006), p. 1. This document is only available by contacting the U.S. Secret
Service’s Office of Legislative Affairs.
21 In FY2008, Congress appropriated $85 million for major presidential candidate protection,
P.L. 110-161, Div. E.
22 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement,
Federal Protective Service, “Fiscal Year 2009 Congressional Justification,” p. 5.

Security’s (DHS) Domestic Emergency Support Teams, and Urban Search and
Rescue Teams.23
Nonfederal Funds. As discussed below, conventions also benefit from
nonfederal money that supports certain activities and security operations. In both
cases, amounts of nonfederal funds can vary widely and are not necessarily centrally
Convention-related Activities. Nonfederal funds are a major source of
money associated with the political (as opposed to security) side of presidential
nominating conventions. The Campaign Finance Institute (CFI, a campaign finance
interest group) has estimated that more than 75% of money related to the 2004
Democratic and Republican conventions came from private sources.24 Although a
complete accounting is not yet available, the 2008 conventions also appear to be
heavily subsidized, albeit indirectly, by nonfederal funds.25 In August 2008, CFI and
the Center for Responsive Politics (another campaign finance interest group)
estimated that 80% of funds for the 2008 Democratic and Republican conventions
would come from private (nonfederal) sources.26 As is discussed below, state and
local governments may also spend additional amounts on security.
Nonfederal funds27 are generally not subject to the limits on contribution sources
and amounts found in federal campaign finance law, although some FEC reporting

23 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of the Press Secretary, “National Special
Security Events: Fact Sheet,” available at [http://www.dhs.gov/xnews/releases/press_release
24 Steve Weissman with the assistance of Margaret Sammon and Jennifer Sykes, Inside
Fundraising for the 2008 Party Conventions: Party Surrogates Gather Soft Money While
Federal Regulators Turn a Blind Eye (Washington: Campaign Finance Institute, 2008). See
“Sources of Funding for Major Party Presidential Nominating Conventions, 1980-2004,”
which is not paginated. The report is available at [http://www.cfinst.org/books_reports/
25 See, for example, Fredreka Schouen, “Donors Pick up Parties’ Expenses; ‘Egregious
Loophole’ Seen at Conventions,” USA Today, August 15, 2008, p. A1; and Leslie Wayne
“Candidates Forgo Soft Money, But Conventions Rake It In,” New York Times, June 7,

2008, p. A1. See also ibid. and Craig Holman, Angela Canterbury, and Zoe Bridges-Curry,

Party Conventions Are Free-For-All for Influence Peddling (Washington: Public Citizen,
2008) at [http://www.citizen.org/documents/Party%20Conventions2.pdf]. As the titles
suggest, the CFI and Public Citizen reports address convention financing in addition to other
issues (e.g., lobbying). Those reports also take policy positions on convention financing.
This CRS report lists those sources as references, but does not take a position on convention
26 Campaign Finance Institute, “Party Conventions’ Financiers Have Spent Nearly $1.5
billion on Federal Campaign Contributions and Lobbying Since 2005,” press release, August

20, 2008, at [http://www.cfinst.org/pr/prRelease.aspx?ReleaseID=203], p. 1.

27 On the various funding sources discussed in this and the preceding sections, see Anthony
Corrado, “Public Funding of Presidential Campaigns,” pp. 62-63.

requirements apply.28 Although convention committees may not accept private funds
(other than certain amounts to offset legal and accounting needs), local “host
committees” may solicit and spend private contributions for activities related to the
convention, such as “use of an auditorium or convention center,” promoting the
convention city, and hosting receptions or tours for attendees.29
As a practical matter, the regulation of federal versus nonfederal funds rests
largely on how FECA and the FEC have treated each source. FECA is largely silent
on campaign finance aspects of nonfederal funds, and the FEC has determined that
nonfederal funds do not explicitly support the conventions per se, even if they
support events associated with those conventions. In particular, a 2003 FEC
rulemaking reaffirmed the commission’s long-held view that:
donations of funds to host committees are, as a matter or law, distinct from other
donations by prohibited sources [defined in FECA] in that they are motivated by
a desire to promote the convention city and hence are not subject to the absolute
ban on corporate contributions in 2 U.S.C. 441b [a FECA provision]. This
conclusion is buttressed by the fact that frequently members of the opposite
political party have played prominent and active roles in convention host30
State or local governments, or coalitions of those governments, may also
provide financial assistance to conventions through entities known as “municipal31
funds.” The FEC has also permitted corporations and labor unions, which may not
provide direct financial support to federal campaigns, to make certain contributions32
of goods or services to host committees and municipal funds. In addition,
“commercial vendors” may provide goods or services to convention committees “at33
reduced or discounted rates, or at no charge” in certain circumstances.

28 Nonfederal funds that support conventions (except for security funding) are sometimes
called “soft money,” a term of art used to describe money believed to influence elections,
but which falls outside federal campaign finance law. On FEC reporting requirements for
host committees and municipal funds (discussed below), see 11 C.F.R. § 9008.51.
29 Host committees are “any local organization,” such as civic associations, whose “principal
purpose is the encouragement of commerce in the convention city, as well as the projection
of a favorable image of the city to the convention attendees.” See 11 C.F.R. § 9008.50(b).
On FEC receipt and expenditure regulations, see 11 C.F.R. § 9008.52.
30 Federal Election Commission, “Public Financing of Presidential Candidates and
Nominating Conventions,” 68 Federal Register 47401, August 8, 2003.
31 Municipal funds are “any fund or account of a government agency, municipality, or
municipal corporation whose principal purpose is the encouragement of commerce in the
municipality and whose receipt and use of funds is subject to the control of officials of the
State or local government.” See 11 C.F.R. § 9008.50(c). On FEC receipt and expenditure
regulations, see 11 C.F.R. § 9008.53. Former FEC chairman David Mason provided
consultations on some points regarding commission regulation of host committees and
municipal funds (e-mail correspondence with R. Sam Garrett, August 14, 2008).
32 See 11 C.F.R. §§ 9008.52 and 9008.53(b).
33 11 C.F.R. § 9008.9.

Security Operations. Even though the primary use of the $100 million of
federal funds through DOJ’s security grants is intended to offset the security costs
incurred by state and local governments, additional funds may be needed. Therefore,
one can assume that nonfederal funding (state and local government funding) is also
used to secure the conventions. The amount of nonfederal funding is based on the
costs to state and local law enforcement entities that work with the USSS and other34
federal law enforcement agencies during the convention. Additionally, unlike the
funding used by party convention committees, any nonfederal funds used for
convention security would come from state and local governments, not PECF

34 CRS is unable to determine the amount of nonfederal funding used by Boston and New
York City in 2004, and there are no projections available for the 2008 conventions in
Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Recent Legislative Activity
Legislation that Would Affect PECF Convention Funding
As shown in Table 2, four bills introduced in the 110th Congress would affect
PECF convention financing. Only one of those bills (H.R. 72) is principally
concerned with convention funding. Others emphasize broader presidential public
financing issues. Additional discussion of the policy approaches proposed in all four
bills appears in the “Policy Issues and Options” section of this report.
Table 2. Legislation Introduced in the 110th Congress that
would Affect PECF Convention Funding
BillPrincipalMajor Convention FundingMost Recent Action
Sponsor P r ovisions
(federal-funds only)
H.R.BartlettWould repeal PECF convention grantsReferred to Committee
72on House Administration
H.R.DoolittleWould repeal the PECF entirelyReferred to Committees
484(including convention grants)on House Administration
and Ways and Means
S.FeingoldWould repeal prioritization of PECFReferred to Committee
436convention fundson Finance
S.FeingoldWould repeal prioritization of PECFReferred to Committee
2412convention fundson Finance
Source: CRS analysis of bill texts.
Note: For additional information on these and other presidential public financing bills, see CRS Report
RL34534, Public Financing of Presidential Campaigns, by R. Sam Garrett.
Presently, there is no legislation pending that would affect convention security
Policy Issues and Options
PECF Convention Funding
As Congress considers whether, or how, to address PECF convention funds,
Members may first examine what role it wishes those funds (or other federal funds)
to play in modern conventions. The current system of PECF convention grants (and
the presidential public financing program generally) has been in place since the 1976
election cycle and has remained essentially unchanged since that time. Although this
report is not focused on nonfederal funds (e.g., “soft money”), it is widely accepted
that such funds play a prominent, even if indirect, role in convention financing. As
discussed below, the tension between federal and nonfederal funds is likely to shape
congressional consideration of convention financing.

Those who are wary of private, “interested” money in politics typically argue
that public funds are a way to insulate conventions (or other aspects of elections)
from undue individual, corporate, or labor influence and from real or apparent
corruption stemming from private funds. From that perspective, maintaining or
expanding public financing of conventions could be attractive. Similarly, Congress
could choose to restrict sources of nonfederal funds.35 On the other hand, in light of
the availability of nonfederal funds, even those who support public financing in
general might argue that federal funding for conventions is unnecessary or that it
should be diminished. Finally, those opposed to campaign finance regulation often
view any public financial assistance to campaigns (or conventions) as an
inappropriate use of taxpayer funds.
As is evident from the preceding discussion, the policy options addressed below,
or others, would likely be part of a larger debate surrounding convention financing
and presidential public financing in general.
Maintaining the Status Quo. If Congress chooses to make no policy
changes, the role of PECF convention funds will remain as it is today. Convention
committees that choose to accept public funds would continue to be bound by the
regulations discussed above, and nonfederal funds would likely continue playing a
role in convention financing. The amount of PECF funds available to convention
committees is likely to continue to increase incrementally with inflation.36
Options that Could Increase or Decrease Federal Convention
Funding.37 The policy options discussed below could change the amount of federal
funding available to conventions. Some of these options are proposed in current
legislation. Others provide additional approaches that have been offered for
consideration, but are not the subject of current legislation.
Regardless of the particular approach, expanding federal funding could decrease
the perceived need for nonfederal funds. However, in the absence of additional
regulation of nonfederal funds, or voluntary decreases in spending by entities
providing nonfederal funds, expanded federal funding could also increase the total
amount of money surrounding conventions. Any change in federal convention
funding would require amending the amounts currently specified in federal law ($4
million for major parties, as adjusted for inflation; $16.8 million in 2008).
Changing the Prioritization of Convention Funds. As noted previously,
PECF convention grants are reserved before matching funds or general-election
grants are paid to publicly financed presidential candidates. If, however, Congress
believes that funding candidates should be the top priority for the public financing

35 For a discussion of constitutional issues, see CRS Report RL30669, The Constitutionality
of Campaign Finance Regulation: Buckley v. Valeo and Its Supreme Court Progeny, by L.
Paige Whitaker.
36 This assumes that sufficient balances would remain in the PECF to cover convention
37 Some of the material in this section is adapted from CRS Report RL34534, Public
Financing of Presidential Campaigns. See that report for additional discussion.

program, de-prioritizing convention funding could be an option. Two bills
introduced in the 110th Congress (S. 436 and S. 2412) would repeal the priority status
of convention financing currently in law. Doing so might help avoid future financial
shortfalls in other aspects of the public financing program (particularly primary
matching funds). Nonetheless, it is possible that shortfalls could then affect
convention funds, especially if convention funds were distributed after candidate
Appropriating Funds. Appropriating funds would permit Congress to
annually (or every four years) determine the amount of money available to
conventions, as opposed (or in addition) to the current PECF amount of $16.8 million
per major party.38 If the PECF grant structure were abandoned in favor of
appropriated funds, Congress could legislate any other funding amount (or none, as
discussed below).39 Accordingly, although appropriations might yield more funding
for conventions than is currently available, Congress might also appropriate less
funding. Appropriating convention funds would also mark a departure from
Congress’s traditional approach to presidential public financing, which has always
emphasized taxpayers’ roles in determining available funding.
Altering the Checkoff-Designation Question. As noted previously,
federal financing of presidential campaigns — including convention financing —
relies entirely on “checkoff” designations by individual taxpayers. Currently, the
checkoff question allows taxpayers only to designate to the PECF $3 for individuals,
or $6 for married couples filing jointly. Available funds are then distributed through
convention grants, general election grants, and matching funds, as described
previously. Congress could, however, choose to alter the checkoff designation by
posing two separate questions to taxpayers: one for candidate financing, and another
for convention financing. Of course, taxpayers might choose to either provide more
or less funding to conventions (and candidate campaigns).
Altering the Checkoff Amount. Increasing the checkoff designation
amount is frequently proposed as a way to provide additional funds to the PECF in
general.40 The same could be proposed for convention funding in particular.41 For
the first and only time, Congress tripled the checkoff amount (from $1 to $3 and $2
to $6) to their current levels in 1993.42 Although increasing the checkoff amount did
provide an influx of money to the PECF, it did not increase the percentage of

38 As noted previously, this amount is regularly adjusted for inflation.
39 Four 110th Congress bills that propose to revamp the presidential public financing program
(H.R. 776; H.R. 4294; S. 436, and S. 2412) would permit congressional appropriations to
initially cover additional benefits proposed in those bills, but the PECF would later have to
repay those appropriations. This proposal is distinct from appropriations specifically for
convention funding.
40 See, for example, H.R. 776, H.R. 4294, S. 436, and S. 2412 in the 110th Congress.
41 In the 110th Congress, H.R. 776, S. 436, H.R. 4294, and S. 2412 would all increase the
checkoff amount, but do not propose additional funding for conventions.
42 26 U.S.C. § 6096(a). On the increase, see P.L. 103-66; 107 Stat. 567-568.

taxpayers contributing to the fund.43 If that same scenario occurred with another
increase in the checkoff amount, more money would be available for public financing
(including conventions if Congress so designates), but declining participation could
threaten available funds in the long term.
Repealing Convention Funding. If Congress determines that convention
funding were no longer necessary — or if it wanted to concentrate remaining funding
on candidate campaigns — convention grants could be eliminated entirely. This
outcome could be accomplished by repealing relevant sections of federal law, or by
amending the law to prohibit the FEC from certifying convention grants, or theth
Treasury Secretary from making convention payments. In the 110 Congress, H.R.

72 (Bartlett) would end subsidies for nominating conventions. H.R. 484 (Doolittle)

would end the public funding system entirely. Those concerned about the influence
of private money, particularly soft money, in convention financing would likely
object to conventions that are completely dependent upon private funds.
Security Funds
During the presidential election years of 2004 and 2008, Congress appropriated
funding through DOJ for convention security; however, DOJ does not plan, train,
exercise, or implement convention security operations. Instead, the USSS (a DHS
entity) is the lead federal agency for convention security. DOJ’s role in providing
convention security funding, the mission of the USSS, and the relationship between
federal funding and nonfederal costs associated with convention security could be
issues that Congress might choose to address prior to the conventions in 2012.
Presently, the USSS is responsible for administering the convention security
operations, in coordination with nonfederal entities, and using its own funding to
cover any costs incurred by federal agencies involved in the security operations.
However, state and local governments, following the convention, must apply to DOJ
for reimbursement of their costs associated with convention security. DOJ
administers the security grants because the USSS is not authorized to reimburse state
and local government costs associated with any NSSE, and specifically any costs
associated with presidential nominating conventions. It may be argued that the
federal security activities executed by the USSS require coordination with the
distribution of federal funds.
State and local law enforcement entities are responsible for providing personnel
and equipment during conventions and working with the USSS to “develop and
implement a seamless security plan that will create a safe and secure environment for
the general public, event participants, Secret Service protectees, and other
dignitaries.”44 To support this effort, in FY2008, Congress appropriated $1 million

43 CRS Report RL34534, Public Financing of Presidential Campaigns.
44 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Security Service, Office of Legislative
Affairs, “National Special Security Events: Meeting the Counter-Terrorism Challenge”
(Washington: 2006), p. 1. This document is only available by contacting the U.S. Secret
Service’s Office of Legislative Affairs.

for NSSE costs within the USSS,45 and the 2008 presidential nominating conventions
have been designated as NSSEs.
Maintaining the Status Quo. If Congress chooses to make no policy
changes, the routine of appropriating convention security funds during presidential
election years would remain unchanged. State and local law enforcement entities
would continue assisting the USSS in securing the convention venues and then apply
to DOJ for reimbursement following the completion of the conventions.
State and local governments can use some DHS grants, such as the State
Homeland Security Grant Program (SHSGP) and the Urban Area Security Initiative
(UASI) for convention security activities, even though DHS does not administer the46
convention security grants that Congress appropriated in FY2004 and FY2008. The
grant approval process for the DHS programs, however, is not flexible, so the
programs have limited application to conventions. States and localities, when
hosting a convention, would need to incorporate plans to use SHSGP and UASI
funding for convention security in their grant applications. DHS does authorize
states and localities to reprogram SHSGP and UASI funding with the DHS
Secretary’s approval; however, that may result in states and localities not funding
other planned homeland security activities.
Options that Could Increase or Decrease Federal Convention
Security Funding. The policy options discussed below could change the amount
of federal security funding available to conventions. None of these options have been
proposed in legislation.
Authorize SHSGP or UASI Amounts for Convention Locations. For
presidential election years, Congress could fund convention security through DHS’s
SHSGP and UASI grants. This could be achieved by either increasing the SHSGP
and UASI allocations for convention locations in election years, or by requiring
convention states and localities to apply and program SHSGP and UASI funding
specifically for convention security during election years. As noted above, this is an
option that states and localities can utilize; however, it may result in not funding
other planned homeland security activities.
This option would also remove DOJ from the convention security funding cycle.
States and localities have an established grant application mechanism with DHS
related to homeland security funding and activities, and the use of SHSGP and UASI
appropriations for convention security, arguably, are homeland security activities.
Authorize USSS to Reimburse State and Local Government Costs.
Another option Congress may consider is authorizing the USSS to reimburse state
and local convention security costs. Because the USSS is the federal agency
responsible for convention security, one could argue that Congress could appropriate
funding to the USSS to reimburse state and local costs. Arguably, the USSS could

45 P.L. 110-161, Div. E.
46 For more information on recent appropriations for DHS grants, see CRS Report RS22805,
FY2009 Appropriations for State and Local Homeland Security, by Shawn Reese.

be more effective in auditing state and local law enforcement costs and determine
reimbursement amounts since the USSS is the lead federal agency for convention
security. This option, like the preceding one, would remove DOJ from administering
the convention security funding. Conversely, this option would require the USSS to
establish and administer a grant process that is not, at present, a responsibility of the
Discontinue Convention Security Funding to States and Localities.
Congress could also choose to not appropriate funding to reimburse state and local
governments convention security costs. This might result in a reduced security role
for state and local law enforcement entities or force state and local governments to
fund all of their convention security activities. However, this option seems unlikely
given the present national concern with homeland security, and the national interest
in protecting major presidential candidates and ensuring the security of mass political
Although PECF funding of convention operations has been in place since the
1976 election cycle, the role of federal convention funding remains subject to debate
in Congress and beyond. Most of that debate, however, occurs within the broader
discussions of presidential public financing and “hard” versus “soft” money in
campaigns. Congress has several options for revisiting the federal role in PECF
funding, if it chooses to do so.
The role of the federal government in funding convention security is a fairly new
development since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. As federal, state, and
local governments further refine their homeland security activities generally, and
specifically convention security operations, Congress may consider different options
for how the federal government provides funding for state and local costs incurred
in securing convention venues.