Reporter William March has covered state and national politics since 1994. Email
Reporter Mike Salinero has covered Hillsborough County government since 2007. Email
Reporter James L. Rosica covers state government from the Tribune's Tallahassee bureau. Email
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COA denies blocking PaulFest during RNC convention
Posted Jun 4, 2012 by William March
Updated Jun 4, 2012 at 06:38 PM
A spokesman for the Committee on Arrangements planning the 2012 RNC convention in Florida says it’s “false” that the party is attempting to block Ron Paul supporters from having a three-day Ron Paul Fest at the state fairgrounds during the convention.
The accusation was made in an email from the chief planner of the event to supporters this weekend.
As part of its agreement with local governments for the convention, the RNC has first dibs on all publicly owned event venues during the convention, and groups wanting to hold events there must get approval from the RNC’s Committee on Arrangements.
The Paul supporters are suspicious because they haven’t received approval for their event, which is expected to bring comedy, musical performers, political speeches and thousands of people to the fairgrounds Aug. 24-26, the weekend before the convention begins Aug. 27.
But committee spokesman James Davis said the committee hasn’t blocked the Paul event or any other event. He said the committee is in the process of matching hundreds of requests from various groups with the 70 or so available venues.
“We’re still in the process of going through and making those assignments on a rolling basis,” he said. “We have not turned anyone down at this point. We’re trying to make all the accommodations we can.”
State fair marketing director Terri Parnell, who’s been negotiating with the Paul backers and the committee, also said the event hasn’t been turned down. “I think it’s just in the stack” of applications awaiting approval, she said. “I think this will probably happen.”
Deborah Robinet of San Diego, who made the suggestion that the RNC was trying to squelch the Paul backers, couldn’t be reached for comment Monday because she was helping with the birth of a grandchild. But Susan Wolfe of Kansas, who’s working with Robinet and is in charge of travel arrangements for thousands of Paul backers, said she wasn’t fully convinced by the explanation.
“There isn’t another event that has been requested (for the fairgrounds) and we’ve been negotiating since early March, so it does seem as if our plans are being stalled to make it more difficult for us to hold the festival we want to hold in Tampa,” she said.