National Democrats threw a party in Philadelphia last summer.
State Democrats, along with Pennsylvania Republicans and Independents, helped to pick up the tab. $10 million of the $86 million raised for the Democratic National Convention came from a taxpayer-funded state grant.
“Every single dime matters,” Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said Thursday morning in announcing that his office will review the deal after receiving requests from both Democratic Governor Tom Wolf and Republican legislators. “This money has already been spent, I understand that and the convention is over.”
But the questions are not over and DePasquale hopes to answer them. Criticisms have heightened on reports that there was a surplus after all the bills were paid and about $1 million of the extra money was handed out in bonuses to workers and not returned to the state.
“I would rather the bonuses not happen, but if they were paid for with private money, there’s not much we could have done to stop it,” DePasquale conceded.
“This is all sound and fury signifying nothing,” insists former Governor Ed Rendell, the DNC chairman who authorized the bonuses. Rendell says state money was kept separate from privately donated funds and was appropriately spent. He understands that DePasquale must do a review and promises to cooperate. He says there’s nothing to see here.
“We spent 100 percent of the $10 million on the things that the state contracted for,” he said. “None of those were salaries, deferred compensation, or bonuses.”
Rendell pointed to a letter he received in January from the Department of Community and Economic Development congratulating him “for the successful use of funds provided through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
DePasquale will take a fresh look. He will first review the contract terms to ensure that they were followed. He said if the funds were indeed kept separate, as Rendell insists, then he can only review how the $10 million was spent and cannot examine the broader $86 million since it was privately donated. If the money was commingled then he would have broader review powers, DePasquale said.
The auditor general also wants to know if the convention would have stayed in Philadelphia if the state had not kicked in the $10 million. He also suspects there will be recommendations moving forward to tighten up the process and oversight of how similar grants are awarded.
DePasquale was asked if it’s a conflict of interest for him to review since he’s a Democrat, was a delegate to the convention and got a contribution for his own campaign from the Democratic Party.
He says no, it’s not a conflict.
“Publicly, you have a dispute between a current Democratic governor (Wolf) and a former Democratic governor (Rendell). One could argue no matter which one I come down on, I’m gonna get my head chopped off one way or the other.”
He expects results of the review by July.