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Democratic convention fundraising behind

March 21, 2008|DeeDee Correll | Times Staff Writer

DENVER — The long and winding fight for the Democratic presidential nomination is giving a fundraising migraine to the Mile High City.

As the host city, Denver must raise $40.6 million by June 16 for the party's Aug. 25-28 convention. This week, the host committee missed its second fundraising deadline, and Mayor John W. Hickenlooper said he believed the drawn-out battle between Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois had distracted potential donors.

"I think there's still so much focus around who the candidate will be that it is hard for people" to focus on the convention, he said.

If the Democrats already had a nominee, "everybody would be focusing on 'How can we make it a great convention?' " he said.

Denver's host committee fell $5 million short of its goal to raise $28 million by March 17. Committee officials declined to comment, but said in a written statement that they had commitments for $28 million.

"Our strategy," committee spokesman Chris Lopez said in a statement, "is to raise as much money in the months leading up the convention as we can. That's the fiscally prudent thing to do, and we're making our donors aware that we need their financial support now. Our team is working aggressively to meet all of our goals."

Democratic National Committee officials declined to comment on the host committee's missed deadline, one of four set by the national party. The Denver host committee missed its first $7.5-million goal by more than $1 million last June, but met a December deadline with $15 million.

It's not uncommon for host cities to struggle to raise money, said veteran Democratic strategist Bill Carrick.

In 2004, Boston struggled with fundraising for the Democratic convention until several weeks before the election, when donations totaling $12 million poured in.

"You just see the scrambling every time," Carrick said. "It's probably exacerbated by the fact there's so much turmoil. . . . I see the mayor's point of view. They don't have the nominee; they don't have the focus."

Corporate sponsors "don't like confusion in politics," he said. "They want to wait and see how it comes out before they open their checkbooks."

However, if it becomes clear that Obama and Clinton will take their fight to the convention, then that might work in Denver's favor.

"If it's clear there's going to be a contested convention, there might be a looky-loo impact: Everyone wants to be there to see what happens," Carrick said. "We're not to that point yet."

The parties' financial deadlines typically are pretty tough to meet, he added.

Nor does the convention have the active support of a presumptive nominee, noted Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. "Right now, neither Clinton nor Obama have the time to help them raise money," she said.

The state of the economy doesn't help, she added.

In St. Paul, Minn., the Republican host committee -- which must raise $39 million -- met its Dec. 15 goal of collecting 60% and expects to meet its June 15 deadline of 80%, spokeswoman Teresa McFarland said.

She declined to comment on whether fundraising had been aided by the fact that the Republican Party has a presumptive nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

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deedee.correll@latimes.com

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