Friday, April 20, 2018
Politics

Nearly two-thirds of RNC host committee spending went to companies outside Florida

TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Host Committee raised most of its money for the Republican National Convention outside of Florida, and most of the companies that got that money were based outside the state, too.

Of $52.4 million that the committee spent to support the convention, $11.5 million — or about 22 percent — was spent in the Tampa Bay area, according to the committee's financial report to the Federal Election Commission.

Another 14 percent went to companies based elsewhere in Florida, including $5.5 million to Gameday Management Group of Orlando, which ran the convention's fleet of 400 charter buses.

And the largest part, $33.7 million, or 64 percent, was paid to companies based outside the state.

True, host committee president Ken Jones said, but a lot of that money came back to the Tampa Bay area in the form of wages for local workers and supplies purchased from local companies.

Consider the two biggest contracts of the convention: $9 million for Freeman Decorating, the Dallas-based general contractor that supervised the build-out at the Tampa Bay Times Forum and the Tampa Convention Center, and $8.4 million to David J. Nash Associates, a Los Angeles area company that created the look and feel of the convention.

"I can guarantee you we did not get a bunch of electricians and carpenters and plumbers and fly them in from Texas and California," Jones said Friday. "They did, in fact, use a lot of local labor and a lot of local subcontractors. It would be a completely inaccurate statement to say that all that money went to Texas and Los Angeles."

As part of a study of the convention's economic impact, Jones said the host committee is asking its vendors to report back on how many local workers they used and other ways they put money back into the Tampa Bay area's economy.

Jones said he expects economic impact to come from four main sources: the host committee's spending, $18 million spent on the convention by the Republican Party itself, a $50 million federal security grant to the city of Tampa, and $40 million to $50 million in visitor spending on hotels, meals, transportation, gifts and other purchases.

The host committee's 833-page report covers a wide range of spending that took place from May 2010, when Tampa was awarded the convention, through Oct. 2. Among other things, the host committee paid:

• $2.1 million to rent the Tampa Bay Times Forum for six weeks. It paid the city of Tampa nearly $1.3 million to rent the Tampa Convention Center to provide work space to the 15,000 members of the media who worked the Aug. 27-30 convention.

• $59,231 to Tucker/Hall of Tampa for media consulting, $103,400 to JRS Security Services of Fort Myers for security consulting and $1.3 million to Andrew McKenna of Arlington, Va., for fundraising consulting.

• Paid $1,050 to Sanding Ovations of Treasure Island for a sand sculpture, $1,200 to the Dalí Museum for pins, $500 to Los Blancos Cigar Co. of Safety Harbor for cigars, $333 to United Cab for taxi rides and nearly $24,000 spent at Bern's Steak House.

Richard Danielson can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403.

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