Arizona State University is scheduled to host a major presidential debate in six months. But it has raised only $800,000 of the $3 million needed to do so.
University administrators, who have now stepped up their quest for contributions, say they're not worried.
"If this city and state can raise 5 (million) to 6 million dollars to host a Super Bowl, then I'm sure we have the resources to host an historical event like a presidential debate," said Neil Giuliano, ASU community relations director and mayor of Tempe.
The clash between President Bush and expected Democratic nominee John Kerry is the third and final one before the Nov. 2 election. It will be broadcast Oct. 13 from ASU’s Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium. Originally, university officials estimated that it would cost about $1.5 million to host the debate. But Giuliano said the rising costs of security, telecommunications and other necessities have pushed costs to nearly $3 million. And in a presidential election year, Giuliano said, donors are squeezed for every penny.
He went on to call for the state Republican and Democrat parties to step up their efforts. But the two major political parties differ regarding their financial commitment to the debate, which is organized by the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates. Michael Hellon, chairman of the Arizona Republican State Committee, said his party could not offer any significant donations. He said that the party was directing most of its money to the president's re-election campaign as well as local races and the get-out-the-vote efforts.
Hellon added that new campaign finance laws have restricted how the party can raise and spend money. "As interesting as the debates are, we have several other priorities for our limited funds," he said. However, state Democrats have thrown their full support behind the debate and pledged to help the university.
"The Democrats are committed to working with the Republican Party as we all agreed to," said Sarah Rosen, communications director for the Democratic Party. Rosen said she did not know of any new campaign finance laws that restricted political parties from raising or spending money to finance a debate.
Virgil Renzulli, vice president of public affairs at ASU, said the university is aggressively trying to identify new political contributors. He said that the university recently received a large financial commitment from a corporation that would equal about one-sixth of the total costs. Renzulli said he will not name the corporation or the amount of money it pledged until the deal is finalized later this week. Besides identifying new revenue sources, Renzulli said the university would also ask previous donors to contribute.