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(Vote) Are you ok with Birmingham spending tax dollars on longshot lobbying effort to woo DNC?

President Barack Obama accepts the Democratic nomination for President at the 2012 Democratic National Convention Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, NC.
President Barack Obama accepts the Democratic nomination for President at the 2012 Democratic National Convention Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, NC.

According to AL.com, the Birmingham City Council on Tuesday morning used a loophole in Alabama’s open meetings law to go into a “closed door executive session” to discuss doling out $275,000 to Democrat 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 discussion surrounding the contracts and their scope of services may be something that others find to their advantage,” said city attorney Ralph Cook.

According to documents obtained by AL.com, the City of Birmingham has proposed hiring 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.

It is not abnormal for municipalities to hire lobbyists to advocate on their behalf.

The City of Birmingham actually notched a recent victory by enlisting lobbyists to advance their cause.

The city hired a powerhouse group of lobbyists to fight a bill to reform the Birmingham Water Works Board, including an attorney in Rob Riley’s (son of former Gov. Bob Riley) law firm, along with Fine Geddie & Associates, former state senator Curt Lee and former Water Works Board chairman Anthony Barnes, among others.

The bill passed the Alabama Senate, but died in the House.

But hiring lobbyists to influence a national party committee is a somewhat unusual. And considering how much of a long shot Birmingham is to actually land the convention, it is reasonable to question whether this is a smart use of limited taxpayer resources.

Birmingham flat out lacks the level of infrastructure that other cities can 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.

That said, if by some miracle — and I mean miracle — the city did land the convention, which would be a huge economic boon for the region, the $250,000 expenditure might suddenly go from looking like throwing money in a black hole to a smart investment. I just wouldn’t count on it.


RELATED: Why Birmingham has absolutely zero chance of hosting the 2016 DNC


So what do you think? Are you ok with Birmingham spending a quarter-million dollars on lobbyists to woo the DNC? Vote in our survey below.

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Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

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