Boston gave them Palm Pilots with the August 2000 calendars already filled in with the notation "Democratic National Convention/Boston." Denver loaded them up with signed Denver Broncos footballs, souvenir necklaces and cuff links, ski jackets from Vail, backpacks from Winter Park, and Pepsi Center hard hats. But in the end, the members of the Democratic National Convention's site-selection committee were dazzled by L.A.'s star power and promises from the billionaire-studded host committee that no taxpayer money would be needed to pay for the big event. (That committee includes Eli Broad, David Geffen, Ron Burkle and Ed Roski, a business partner of Denver's own billionaire Phil "Hollywood" Anschutz, who donated the $3.5 million cost of renting L.A.'s Staples Center, which he co-owns, and $2 million in cash and services for the convention.) Now, sixteen months after L.A. won the bidding war, Denver is watching with glee as the host committee there begs the City of Angels for $4 million to help pick up the $30 million-plus convention tab.
"It is quite interesting, but I wouldn't say it's unexpected," says Patton Boggs consultant Mike Dino, who worked on Mayor Wellington Webb's unsuccessful effort to bring the convention to Denver. "Boston and Denver were clear about spending taxpayer money. L.A. got caught up in its own glitz and glamour. They were being unrealistic."
Dino acknowledges that it would have been tough for Denver to pull off something as large as the Democratic National Convention this year, however, and now that massive protests planned for the Republican (in Philadelphia) and Democratic conventions promise to be the most exciting parts of both, he says he's just as glad that Denver lost the bid. "We looked good coming in a strong second. We surprised a lot of people. But if we had gotten it, it would be more than we could chew at this time," he says.
"The biggest unknown is how these protestors are going to weigh in," Dino adds. "They will be there and not be paying attention to any rules." They may help Denver land one of the two conventions in the near future, though. "After going to L.A., [the site-selection committee] will want a more manageable city, and by 2004, we will be better positioned to take it on. [Mayor Webb] is going to certainly make it known to the people he comes across in L.A. at the convention that he would like to have it here in 2004.
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"The nice thing about this year is that we didn't have to back up our boast."