The Birmingham City Council in early August used a loophole in Alabama’s open meetings law to go into a “closed door executive session” to discuss doling out $275,000 to Democratic lobbyists to help the city land the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
City leaders said a public discussion of the contracts could hurt its chances of landing the conference.
the City ultimately hired the Podesta Group for $150,000, Partnering for Progress for $100,000 and the Covington & Burling law firm for $25,000.
The Podesta Group is led by Tony Podesta, a Democratic strategist who was dubbed one of DC’s “50 heavy lifters” by the Financial Times and “one of Washington’s biggest players” by The New York Times. His brother, John, was President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff and now serves as Counselor to President Obama in the White House, where his duties include “overseeing climate change and energy policy.” Like just about everyone else in the Obama universe, the Podestas cut their teeth in the rough and tumble Chicago political scene. Partnering for Progress was founded by Jefferson County Chief Deputy Tax Assessor John Powe.
In the end, the Birmingham City Council got the money and got the lobbyists, but they didn’t get the convention. As a matter of fact, Birmingham didn’t even make it into the final round.
DNC announces finalist cities for 2016 convention: Columbus, New York, and Philadelphia. (Shockingly, Birmingham, Ala. didn't make the cut).
— Alex Pappas (@AlexPappas) November 24, 2014
From early on, critics of the City’s plan pointed out that Birmingham lacks the level of infrastructure that other cities could offer the DNC. The city’s conference facilities are not up to snuff. There are likely not enough hotel rooms to accommodate the convention. Birmingham’s public transit system — which recently ranked 94th among the nation’s 100 largest metro areas — would probably be pushed beyond its breaking point. And all of that is on top of the political reality that, for all practical purposes, the Democratic Party doesn’t even exist in Alabama anymore.
In a Yellowhammer News non-scientific online poll that received over 5,000 responses, 90.3 percent of respondents said that spending taxpayer dollars on lobbyists to woo the DNC was a “waste of money.”
Looks like they were right.
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