GOP Convention Loses Corporate Sponsors Over Donald Trump

May 23, 2016
Originally published on May 31, 2016 4:07 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Not too long ago, it looked like there would be a floor fight at this summer's National Republican Convention. And there's a chance Bernie Sanders' supporters could protest at the Democratic Convention. Both would be a far cry from more recent conventions that have been pretty predictable.

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Mr. Chairman and delegates...

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BARACK OBAMA: With profound gratitude...

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: With a deep awareness of the responsibility...

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: I again proudly...

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: I proudly...

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GEORGE BUSH: I proudly accept...

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: I accept...

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UNIDENTIFIED MAN #6: I accept...

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OBAMA: ...Your nomination for the presidency of the United States.

SHAPIRO: Donald Trump might sound a different note in Cleveland this July. He called the 2012 Republican Convention boring. And he's already behind a convention controversy. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: The controversy came up this spring. Several progressive groups mounted grassroots campaigns telling Coca-Cola, Microsoft and a few other big corporations they should cancel contributions they had pledged for the Republican Convention in Cleveland. The progressive groups said the money would help promote Trump, compromising the group's own policies not to discriminate. Murshad Zaheed is political director of Credo Action, one of the groups.

MURSHAD ZAHEED: They can't be out there professing their commitment to those core values when they end up making decisions to align their brands with Trump's racist and sexist campaign. They can't have it both ways.

OVERBY: The hundred-thousand-dollar pledges were for Cleveland's host committee, not the Republican National Committee. Zaheed said Coca-Cola and Microsoft both backed out of their pledges. The two companies dispute that. They told NPR they have reduced their cash contributions for both conventions, but those decisions were made last year. David Gilbert is president of the Cleveland Host Committee.

DAVID GILBERT: I wouldn't say there has been no effect, but overall it's been pretty small.

OVERBY: In fact, the Host Committee so far has raised $56 million. So a couple of hundred-thousand-dollar checks are not a crisis.

GILBERT: We've actually already raised more money than any other political convention in history.

OVERBY: And in Philadelphia, site of the Democratic convention, that host committee isn't far behind. A spokeswoman there declined interview requests. The Republican and Democratic National Committees are raising money, too. What moves corporations, unions and wealthy donors to give? Hometown spirit, civic responsibility and, of course, political access.

CRAIG HOLMAN: These conventions are all about providing one-on-one access to the very well-financed donors behind the conventions.

OVERBY: That's Craig Holman with the liberal group Public Citizen. Forty years ago, the conventions were financed purely with public funds. The cost about $9 million each, adjusted for inflation. In the 1990s, the Federal Election Commission relaxed the rules, and private money flowed in.

In 2012, the Republican Convention cost $74 million. Since then, Congress has ended the public funding, and Congress and the FEC have opened two new channels for more private money. The upshot, said Holman - bloated soirees.

HOLMAN: Seen by party leaders as being an excellent opportunity for lawmakers and candidates to embrace the very wealthy special interests and the corporate interests.

OVERBY: Disclosure of those interests, though, has to wait. The host committees don't file their reports until September, two months after the balloons cascade down on the nominees. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.