PHILADELPHIA did its best to look pretty yesterday for 17 Democratic Party officials searching for a city to host their 2016 presidential convention.
But the five-city competition is shaping up as more a bidding war than a beauty pageant.
Consider this rate of inflation:
Former Gov. Ed Rendell, chairman of the nonprofit host committee set up to bid for the convention, said in March that the group wanted to raise $50 million to stage the event.
Last week, Rendell said the goal was $70 million.
Rendell yesterday: "We think we can go as high as $80 million or $81 million or $82 million, and that ought to be sufficient."
It's probably not a coincidence that the price kept climbing as the Democratic officials arrived yesterday for a two-day visit, right after a stop in deep-pocketed New York City, where officials said they would raise more than $100 million in private money for a Brooklyn bid while the city would kick in $10 million.
Amy Dacey, the Democratic National Committee's chief executive, said she and her staff are "very focused on the financial, logistical and security issues around hosting any convention."
It's probably also not a coincidence that Dacey listed finance as the first of her party's priorities.
She repeated those priorities in that order three more times, while deflecting almost all other questions about Philadelphia's chances to win the convention.
Yesterday's visit focused on the city's facilities for hosting the convention, with a heavy dose of the city's touristy assets. Greeted by Mummers and Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders, the Democrats toured the Wells Fargo Center and the Pennsylvania Convention Center, had lunch at Pat's King of Steaks and strolled through the Reading Terminal Market.
Today, the talk is about money.
Rendell said the host committee will present to the Democratic officials a plan to raise $41 million in cash and an additional $19 million in "in-kind" contributions.
"We could put it on for $60 million and meet all the goals," Rendell said later. "We think, as a fail-safe, our goal is $80 million. But that doesn't mean we're going to necessarily make our goal."
Rendell and Mayor Nutter repeatedly stressed yesterday that the city would not be kicking in cash for the event, unlike in 2000 when Philadelphia hosted the Republican National Convention.
A nonprofit in 2000 raised $66 million to host that event, with $39 million coming from taxpayers in the Philadelphia region.
The city later reported that the convention had a $345 million economic impact in the region.
In April, President Obama signed legislation to strip the Democratic and Republican parties of public financing for political conventions. That financing amounted to $18 million for each of the parties' 2012 conventions.
The federal government has, since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, put up $50 million in security funding to protect U.S. Congress members and other officials at political conventions.
The Democratic officials also recently toured Birmingham, Ala., and Columbus, Ohio, and plan to see Phoenix next. A decision on which city will host the convention will be made late this year or early next year.