Republican National Convention

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The Republican National Convention (RNC) for the U.S. presidential election, 2008, is slated to be held September 1 through 4, 2008, in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul. "The four-day event will be held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., a concert venue and the home of the National Hockey League's Minnesota Wild." [1]

2004 Convention

The Convention for U.S. presidential election, 2004, was held from August 30 to September 2, 2004, at New York City's Madison Square Garden.

The 2004 convention was late relative to previous years; the 2000 RNC started on July 29, 2000. The later date and former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's prominent role as an opening-night speaker on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, with significant emotional and political implications.

GCI was appointed to manage media services at the 2004 Republican National Convention. Heading the six-person GCI team was Ray Kerins "GCI staffers will help arrange interviews, provide background information, distribute schedules and book reservations and transportation for members of the media," O'Dwyers reported. [2]

The Shopping Path to Nonviolence

"In a PR appeasement attempt, NYC & Company, the city's official tourism-marketing organization, has offered incentives to Republican National Convention protestors who will protest peacefully," wrote PR Week. "Those wearing a 'peaceful political activist' button can receive discounts at area hotels, shops, and restaurants."[3] New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg "conceded yesterday that not everyone who wore a button would be strictly vetted for his or her peacefulness," reported the New York Times. "'Unfortunately, we can't stop an anarchist from getting a button,' he said, though he doubted any of them would want to wear one."[4]

The "Peaceful Political Activist" campaign was the idea of Gary Ferdman, the executive director of the business consortium Sensible Priorities. Ferdman told the New York Times "that he came up with the idea for the discount program when the city decided it needed to reach out to protesters." Alluding to the major RNC protest organizer United for Peace and Justice's ongoing legal efforts to obtain a protest permit for Central Park, he added, "I'm afraid this Central Park thing is really going to blow up."[5]

Not unexpectedly, a United for Peace and Justice spokesperson dismissed the "Peaceful Political Activist" campaign as a publicity stunt. Across the street from Mayor Bloomberg's press conference announcing the campaign, four members of the women's peace group Code Pink were arrested while unfurling a 40-foot banner from their ninth-floor hotel room. According to the group, the banner read, "You Say Welcome, We Say Where -- 8/29 Central Park?" Jodie Evans, a Code Pink co-founder, said, "By presenting a pink slip to Mayor Bloomberg, CODEPINK wanted to draw attention to the discrepancy between the Mayor's words in front of the TV cameras and his actions behind closed doors. Requests for permits to rally peacefully in the park have been categorically denied. We do not need discounts at Applebee's; we need an administration that sets a course for peace and respects our right to speak."[6]

RNC Not Welcome

"As Republicans get excited about converging on Madison Square Garden to bask in the political limelight this month ... a recent survey by a Manhattan public relations firm found 83 percent of those polled do not want the Republican convention in town. When asked why, more than half, 53 percent, were worried about traffic, street closures, and security hassles," reported New York City's ABC affiliate. Republican New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to counter the poll results by saying, "It is not going to cost the city anything other than the $25 million in security and it'll generate hundreds of millions in economic activity. It's really going to be great for the whole city. And I think everybody is really looking forward it."[7]

Compassionate Conservatives

On July 22, 2004, the Republican Party launched a community volunteering campaign called Compassion Across America, timed to act as a PR spoiler for the start of the Democratic National Convention on July 26. The effort was described by the New York Times as "a highly organized nationwide campaign to get volunteers to donate blood, feed the hungry and operate community health fairs." While the campaign started just before the Democratic convention, the Times reporter wondered if "here is a television image that organizers of the Republican National Convention are fantasizing about: Protesters clog the area around Madison Square Garden, inconveniencing commuters ... [while] Republican delegates [are] feeding the homeless."[8]

Preachers and Patriots

Frank Breeden, a former president of the Gospel Music Association, is the RNC's Director of Entertainment. He refers to his aspect of the event as "Preachers and Patriots," and said the major types of music to be featured include gospel, country, Broadway and patriotic music, including "several renditions of the national anthem." Breeden's job is "to help produce a show that carefully weaves the party's political message with a mix of music, star power and patriotic symbolism," according to the New York Times. Breeden said, "Entertainment plays more of a prominent role in marketing messages today than ever before," and convention planners want to use music and other forms of American culture during the RNC "just like Cadillac uses Led Zeppelin to market its ideas."[9]

Breeden said that the public relations arm of the Committee on Arrangements, the official RNC organizers, would be releasing a list of convention entertainers. He also stressed the use of video: "We have taken several different story points and used media to enhance them and communicate the message." Being visually enticing is important, given the limited media attention to the conventions. There is "diminished [network] coverage and even harder to get viewers to tune in. We have to think like television, use a large pallet of creative ideas to convey the message," said Breeden.[10]

Pre-emptive Policing

On August 16, 2004, mutliple news reports focused on pre-convention security efforts and civil liberties concerns. The Associated Press reported: "Federal agents and city police are keeping tabs on people they say might try to cause trouble at the Republican National Convention, questioning activists, making unannounced visits and monitoring Web sites and meetings. ... The intelligence unit of the New York Police Department has been closely monitoring Web sites run by self-described anarchists. It also has sought to infiltrate protest groups with young, scruffy-looking officers posing as activists."[11]

"The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been questioning political demonstrators across the country, and in rare cases even subpoenaing them, in an aggressive effort to forestall what officials say could be violent and disruptive protests at the Republican National Convention," reported the New York Times. "The unusual initiative comes after the Justice Department, in a previously undisclosed legal opinion, gave its blessing to controversial tactics used last year by the F.B.I in urging local police departments to report suspicious activity at political and antiwar demonstrations to counterterrorism squads." The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel found that, "given the limited nature of such public monitoring, any possible 'chilling' effect caused by the bulletins would be quite minimal and substantially outweighed by the public interest in maintaining safety and order during large-scale demonstrations."[12]

Some of the estimated 40 to 50 people already questioned by the F.B.I. might not agree. "The message I took from it," said Denver-based peace activist Sarah Bardwell, "was that they were trying to intimidate us into not going to any protests and to let us know that, 'hey, we're watching you.'" Three young men subpoenaed by the F.B.I. in Missouri changed their plans and decided not to attend demonstrations around the Democratic or Republican conventions, according to Denise Lieberman, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union in St. Louis. The young men "didn't have any plans to participate in the violence, but what's so disturbing about all this is the pre-emptive nature - stopping them from participating in a protest before anything even happened," said Lieberman. "They got the message loud and clear that if you make plans to go to a protest, you could be subject to arrest or a visit from the F.B.I."[13]

The Secret Service is playing a lead role in planning convention security, according to Associated Press. "How we do that specifically, I'm not going to go into," said Secret Service spokesperson Ann Roman.[14]

Republican National Convention Staff

  • Bill Harris, CEO [15].
  • Brian Noyes, Director of Delegate and Caucus, appointed July 1 2004 [16].
  • David Armstrong Norcross, chair of Committee On Arrangements [17].
  • Hector F. Irastorza, Jr., Chief Operating Officer [18].
  • Nicol Andrews, Associate Director of Regional and Caucus [19]. Also acts as a spokeswoman [20].
  • Karen Keller- Deputy to the Chief Executive Officer of Republican National Convention. Keller worked as Special Assistant to the White House Budget Director. Prior to that she was a Senior Associate at the PR company Burson-Marsteller.
  • Mike Miller serves as Director of Operations. Miller has been on staff for the last nine Republican Conventions and operated PR company Elkmont Productions.
  • Rori Patrise Smith is spokesperson for the conference. Before this she was the Press Secretary and Outreach Coordinator for Congresswoman Katherine Harris's campaign. Smith also worked as a television weather anchor and television host for Delta Air Lines.

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