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Archive for Saturday, August 18, 2001

Hustle and hype

August 18, 2001

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One can only guess at the payoffs being made to land 2004 major party conventions.

In recent times we have read about one scandal after another involving public officials and the fraud and bribes they bring about in trying to land some prestigious major event.

Consider the payola that changed hands in trying to bring the Olympic Games to Salt Lake City. How much did China shove under the table to complete its recent Olympic coup? We're talking about the supposedly "pure and simple" Olympics where morals, ethics and Golden Rule behavior are supposed to be the norm.

Imagine the graft and deceit that must go on in the efforts to land a major political event, such as the quadrennial Republican and Democratic conventions.

Well, people have been scuffling behind the scenes for some time now to bring the 2004 GOP and Democratic conventions to their environs. And if we think payoffs and handouts have been out of line for the Olympics, imagine the wheeling and dealing when politicians are involved.

After all, we've had one example after another in recent times of the way politicos use funds with utter abandon. How many people in the Republican and Democratic parties will profit handsomely from the largesse of entities trying to land the 2004 conventions?

Among cities now in the mix for the 2004 conventions are San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans, Boston, Charlotte, N.C., Indianapolis, Denver, Miami, New York, Chicago and Orlando, Fla.

Every promoter from these and other cities already is seeking to get a foot in the door and make it worth the while of officials of the parties. They'll be highlighting their transportation, convention centers, hotel rooms and other resources that are "can't miss."

Twenty years ago, nearby Kansas City, Mo., was able to overcome such handicaps as a shortage of hotel space to land the Republican presidential convention. The Utah delegation stayed in Lawrence and commuted to and from Kemper Arena, where the Gerald Ford-Bob Dole presidential ticket emerged. Kansas City and the region benefited from the international exposure, as any convention city does. But it is not likely Kansas City will be hustling for another such event in the future, even if its questionable facilities can be upgraded.

The convention in 1976 did not prove to be the major windfall some promoters said it would. But the stakes were not as high then, and there was no deficit from the payoffs and handouts cities nowadays have to engage in to get a convention.

There are drawbacks in luring such an event and Kansas City knows a lot of them. But even with the disadvantages, other cities contend the ultimate prize is worth the cost.

Yet if you think crooks and bandits were on the prowl for recent Olympic Games finagling, imagine what must be going on in the efforts to bring major politicians to an event like the 2004 conventions.

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