Democratic Convention Host Lagging on Funds

By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 18, 2008

DENVER -- The committee that will host the Democratic National Convention announced this week that it is $10 million short of the $40.6 million it promised to raise by mid-June.

Organizers of the Denver 2008 host committee blame the sluggish economy, the city's limited corporate base and the distraction of the long Democratic primary fight, which Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) won less than two weeks ago.

Colorado officials said they would come up with the money before the convention opens on Aug. 25, likely by tapping the power of Obama's fundraising capabilities.

"We have to raise $10 million or $11 million more. Now that we have the primary season over, it's happening a lot faster, but it needs to happen a lot faster because the convention's roaring up on us," said Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.). "The campaign is now invested in making the whole thing a success."

The private host committee, which has beseeched corporate benefactors and private supporters, issued only a four-paragraph statement reporting the shortfall and describing "great anticipation and excitement building toward Denver's hosting of this historic convention." Chief spokesman Chris Lopez refused to answer questions.

The last in an eight-city series of public presentations about the convention was held last week in a Denver bookstore, where organizers announced that more than 20,000 people had signed up as volunteers, including 5,000 from out of town -- so many that jobs may need to be invented for them.

The convention is also expected to attract protesters. A coalition of antiabortion groups, including Operation Rescue and the Christian Defense Coalition, intends to hold a series of prayer vigils and demonstrations. Protests are also expected by an organization called Re-create 68, a reference to the year when protests outside the Democratic convention in Chicago turned famously violent.

Re-create 68 calls itself an association of "grassroots people who are tired of being sold out by the Democratic Party." Its Web site calls on supporters to "[j]oin us in the streets of Denver as we resist a two-party system that allows imperialism and racism to continue unrestrained."

Denver authorities have created parade routes and demonstration zones, though they are farther from the delegates and the media than protesters sought. Law enforcement authorities are offering assurances that order will be kept.

"Certainly, we all want to honor free speech," Perlmutter said in a telephone interview. "But we also know security becomes more and more important."

Denver has planned to spend tens of millions allocated by the federal government on security. The secrecy of its plans has prompted a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, which aims to learn how the money is being spent. While ACLU attorneys contend that the policy violates the state's open records act, city authorities say the information could compromise safety.

The Rocky Mountain News reported Tuesday that Denver police ordered 88 launchers that fire a substance akin to pepper spray. The cost of the launchers and the projectiles, the newspaper said, was in the low six figures.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company