Don’t use tax money for bonuses
Even if there now weren’t questions regarding leftover funds from last year’s Democratic National Convention held in Philadelphia, an audit like the one being initiated by the Pennsylvania Auditor General’s Office would have been a logical exercise.
The fact that a grant of $10 million — state taxpayers’ money — was awarded as an incentive for bringing the convention, and the economic benefits tied to it, to Pennsylvania, commonwealth residents have a right to evidence that the money was spent legally and totally in accord with the grant agreement.
If some wasn’t, an effort should be launched on behalf of getting repayment.
What’s reportedly at the heart of the audit that state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has announced centers on a $4 million surplus in the convention host committee’s possession after the event. Of that $4 million, at least $1 million reportedly was paid out in bonuses and grants.
One eye-opening bonus was the $300,000 awarded to host committee executive director Kevin Washo.
But all that aside, there should have been a pro-taxpayer stipulation that private convention funds were to be used first, with use of the $10 million grant “kicking in” only when the private funds were gone.
Beyond that, there should have been an understanding that any leftover funds would be returned to the commonwealth’s coffers, which currently are in dire straits — dire straits that raise questions about the judgment behind the grant.
However, the convention did produce economic benefits to the commonwealth much greater than the seed money that Harrisburg planted.
Regardless, taxpayers’ money should not have paved the way for bonuses.
It was the Philadelphia Inquirer that broke the news about the surplus, and that news prompted Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, and state Senate Republican leaders to ask DePasquale to examine how the host committee spent the state money that it received.
DePasquale observed correctly that “if it were all private money, this wouldn’t be a news story; I think the $10 million from the state is what makes it a news story and makes it worthy of an independent review.”
DePasquale was right in indicating that the audit should start with the question of how critical was the grant to securing the convention.
Another important point to be ascertained is whether the grant money was segregated from privately raised DNC funding, as it was supposed to be.
“If the funds were commingled, our work gets significantly more challenging,” DePasquale said.
DePasquale promised to pursue the facts wherever they might lead.
Meanwhile, it’s to be hoped that the host committee makes good on its promise to fully cooperate with the audit.
DePasquale estimated that the audit would be completed in July.
It wasn’t wrong for the state to go “the extra mile” to lure the convention and its economic benefits here, but last year’s event will be instructive regarding the pursuit of other major events, political or otherwise, going forward.
Whatever those events, the commonwealth must not end up a loser.
The coming audit hopefully will prove that during last year’s DNC event Pennsylvania didn’t lose.