Watchdog: Conference Spending

Right's conference planners should take a cue from Left, meet in red cities

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Francesca Chambers,Op-Eds,Conference Spending,Conservatism,Liberalism

After studying some of 2013’s largest American political conferences across the ideological spectrum, Americans for Prosperity recently asked me to share my observations at its Right Online gathering on the tactics of their counterparts on the Left.

Of course, the first things that came to my mind were the abundance of panels at conservative conferences that start way too early in the morning, speakers that make attendees wish they’d pushed the snooze button a few more times, and the lack of free coffee that might have otherwise helped attendees rally.

A less obvious and mostly overlooked difference between the Left and Right’s national gatherings, however, are the locations. Netroots Nation has held its past conferences in Las Vegas, Chicago, Austin (widely regarded as the most liberal city in the otherwise conservative state of Texas), Pittsburgh, Providence, R. I. and San Jose, Calif. They will give Detroit a much-needed infusion of cash in 2014.

It’s no accident that progressives hold their conferences in Democratic strongholds, including those facing financial difficulties. Netroots generates approximately $3.5 million dollars in revenue for its host cities. Likewise, a good portion of Netroots Nation 2014 likely be spent spinning Detroit's bankruptcy as a good thing.

Using the Right’s apparent planning logic, where is the most likely site of the next conservative conference? Who knows? Conservatives don’t often seem to use a lot of logic in picking locations for their conferences.

America's top cities with Republican mayors

Mesa, Arizona
Fresno, California
Miami, Florida
Indianapolis, Indiana
Overlnd Park, Kansas
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Fort Worth, Texas
Virginia Beach, Virginia

The more savvy conservative organizations have started to catch on to liberals’ organizing tactics and have reacted accordingly. The State Policy Network, for example, recently held its annual meeting in Oklahoma City–one of America’s reddest cities.

Similarly, the annual RedState gathering was held this year in New Orleans in the land of Republican Governors Association Chairman Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

Americans for Prosperity held its most recent conferences in Orlando, Fla., home to Republicans Gov. Rick Scott of Florida and Sen. Marco Rubio.

Granted, it’s not as easy for conservatives to host their conferences in politically aligned cities. Most of the nation’s major urban areas are dark blue.

But the crux of the problem is that conservatives are far less concerned about creating buzz and economic activity for like-minded cities than their liberal counterparts.

This same understanding that politics and money are intrinsically related has made progressives incredibly successful at getting lucrative businesses like the Coca-Cola Company and Kraft Foods to distance themselves publically from the American Legislative Exchange Council.

There’s a saying in politics that yard signs don’t vote. But the purpose of yard signs in campaigns isn’t to whip votes, it’s to show support for a specific candidate, party or policy position.

The same could be said of conference locations. With a glut of convention centers across the country, many of which are hard-up for cash and events, conservatives could easily host their conferences in red states and purple cities that promote limited government and fiscal responsibility instead of liberal bastions like Chicago.

Francesca Chambers is editor of Red Alert Politics, the online publication written by and for young conservatives.
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