DNC Convention Costs Leaving Young And Poor Delegates Out In The Cold

Caitlin Johnstone

The exorbitant costs of attending the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia on July 25-28 this year, is threatening to leave some delegates out in the cold.

The DNC strongly requires delegates to stay at an appointed hotel, and costs for a room start at $569 per night, plus tax and fees, with the hotel requiring a five night minimum, putting base costs for attending the convention in the thousands, effectively shutting out anyone below a certain income bracket.

There were other surprise costs buried in the literature packets distributed to delegates including a “Breakfast and Bash” ticket for $200, which is not technically required, but it’s where the delegate credentials will be handed out. In a further blow to the pocket, all costs must be booked by June 30, a month before the convention, and paid in full by July 17.

“Some are getting nearby cheaper places to stay, which puts them at great risk of not getting past security or receiving their credentials, however they have no other choice as many have just been notified of their delegate status and do not have enough time to fundraise,” Natalie Higley, a California delegate and mother-of-one explained.

Natalie considers herself lucky. As a tier one delegate, she was fairly certain that she was going back in May, so she was able to start her fundraising early. But many delegates aren’t so lucky and have only had a very short amount of time to fundraise. There are others who won’t even know if they’re confirmed to go until after the hotel cut-off date.

Younger and poorer delegates have taken to the internet in an attempt to crowd-source funds for their trip, with mixed success. Donors have expressed concern that they can’t always check the credentials of the various delegates who are asking for money, and thus are leaving themselves open to fraud.

The jaw-dropping costs have affected both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton delegates, but it seems to be affecting Bernie Sanders delegates more due to his platform attracting younger people, and people in precarious financial situations due to ill health, career status, or earning below living standard wages.

To mitigate this problem, a Bernie Sanders volunteer organized an Adopt-A-Bernie-Delegate website which enables Bernie Sanders supporters to pool resources and help pay for hotel costs, airfares, and the Breakfast and Bash tickets.

However, according to Natalie Higley, all the Bernie delegates are still strongly committed to attending in one way or another. Enthusiasm promises to fuel the pathways of all delegates this year in what promises to be a hotly contested convention. However, the high cost of entry for a delegate does leave the DNC open to accusations of being elitist.

The exact number of pledged delegates is still up in the air with the vote in California still being counted, and with Bernie Sanders pulling back four percentage points from the initial announced results. Hillary Clinton was announced the winner of California by 13 percentage points, but she now only holds a lead of nine, with the predominantly Bernie Sanders-leaning provisional votes still being counted.

Anger about the early call and the slow vote count from Bernie Sanders supporters is being felt by Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State.

“We’ve certainly heard from people,” said Alex. “We’ve received phone calls here and there, but a lot on social media.”

Ben Tulchin, lead pollster for the Sanders campaign, says there’s no question Clinton will win the California primary, but he argues strongly that the slow ballot count still hurt Sanders.

“The election night results showed Clinton winning by 12 to 15 percentage points,” he said. “Those numbers became the national narrative,” and affected his momentum, even though the final margin may be less than half that.

It’s that loss of momentum which has left Bernie open to calls for him to drop out before the convention, despite him having enough delegates to contest it.

[Image by AP Photo/John Amis]