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Senate Strips Public Funds From Party Conventions

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Later this summer, Republicans will gather in Tampa, Fla., for their presidential nominating convention; Democrats will then do the same in Charlotte, N.C. Each party gets more than $18 million in public funds this year to help pay for the gatherings.

The money comes from that $3 box that taxpayers can check on their federal tax returns. But this could be the last time party conventions get taxpayer funding.

The Senate has passed a bipartisan measure cutting off all public funding for conventions after this year. The amendment is part of the farm bill that just passed the Senate.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn co-sponsored the ban.

"We're borrowing money from the Chinese to fund a 'Hallelujah Party' in both Tampa and Charlotte this year, each one of them getting $18.4 million. It's time that kind of nonsense stops," Coburn said.

He thought his measure would be defeated, but he was wrong. It passed 95-4.

Louisiana's Mary Landrieu is one of the four Democrats who voted against cutting off public funding for conventions. "Otherwise you're going to have only corporate money involved in conventions," she said, "and I think, frankly, you know, the public should have an opportunity to contribute if they want."

But huge amounts of corporate money are already being spent at conventions.

"With all the money that's flowing through the system today, the funding of the convention is a minor item," said Sen. John McCain, the nominee at the GOP's last presidential convention in St. Paul, Minn.

Last year, the Republican-run House passed a ban on public funding for conventions, but it died in the Senate. With Thursday's vote, such a ban appears more likely.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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