The contrast in the two Philadelphia conventions, despite being 16 years apart, has frustrated David L. Cohen, Comcast senior executive vice president. He was chairman of the 2000 convention host committee and special adviser for the 2016 host committee.
“I had concerns throughout the process that the paid staff was too large” last year, Cohen said, leading him to question the "propriety" when he found out that bonuses were given out to the 2016 staff. A review of records showed that the bonuses were even higher than initially reported -- totaling $1.2 million.
Former Philadelphia Mayor and Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, who has been a close ally of Cohen's for decades, was Philadelphia 2016 host committee chairman. Since the convention, Rendell has butted heads with Cohen over the bonus payments.
The 2016 Philadelphia host committee raised $86 million in its convention effort, $10 million of which was a state grant and the rest from corporations and individuals. Three months after the convention ended, with most bills paid, the committee repaid the city $520,000 for municipal services used during the convention. It also gave away $1.2 million to various nonprofits -- including $750,000 to the city school district and $75,000 to the Rendell Center for Civics and Civic Engagement -- and rewarded its staff and volunteers with bonuses and stipends totaling another $1.2 million.
The Cleveland 2016 Host Committee paid its chief executive officer, David Gilbert, a total of $526,000 through a variety of payments and agreements with the two organizations, Destination Cleveland and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, where Gilbert is CEO. The payments, over a two-year period, included a $140,000 bonus after the convention, said Cleveland committee spokeswoman Emily Lauer. (The committee's initial CEO, Terrance C.Z. Egger, was contracted to receive a $25,000 monthly salary. Egger left in mid-2015 to become publisher of Philadelphia Media Network, which publishes the Inquirer, the Daily News, and Philly.com.)
The 2000 Philadelphia Host Committee paid its executive director, Karen Dougherty Buchholz, an annual salary between $120,000 and $150,000, Cohen said. Federal Election Commission reports show that Buchholz was paid a total of $305,000 between August 1998 and September 2000. Adjusted for inflation, she would have been paid $431,596 in today’s dollars for the two-year effort. (By comparison, Washo was paid a total of $810,000, including a $310,000 bonus for his work with the 2016 committee. Rendell has said that the bonus was part back pay for work Washo did during the bid phase. Washo was vice president of a consulting firm hired to do work during the bid phase.)
The Philadelphia committee bonus packages, ranging from about $20,000 to $310,000, were given out the day after Thanksgiving. They were approved only by Rendell, Washo and Rose. After receiving their own bonuses, Washo and Rose also continued to be paid full-time salaries and benefits through March (Washo had started working full time at Cozen O'Connor in November). So did Jason O’Malley, who collected a $220,000 bonus. In total, the 2016 committee spent $3.7 million in staff salaries, bonuses and benefits, including 401(k)s.
A difference between the 2016 Philadelphia and 2012 Charlotte committees is there was money left over for the Philadelphia committee to continue paying staff. Charlotte had a deficit of $10.9 million, which it later closed through loan forgiveness.