Open Records Office Orders City, DNC Host Committee to Release Financials

By Dustin Slaughter

The state’s Office of Open Records ruled in The Declaration’s favor yesterday and ordered the city to release the Democratic National Convention Host Committee’s financial reports within 30 days, after our appeal of a denied Right-to-Know request.

If the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development (PAID), the public agency we queried for the records, along with PHL 2016 (the Host Committee’s corporate name), decide to comply with Harrisburg’s order, the names of donors and the amounts those donors paid to pull off the convention – as well as a verified amount of how much money convention organizers have actually raised – would be made public for the first time.

When asked on Tuesday evening if the Host Committee intends to sue to prevent release of the records, spokeswoman Anna Adams-Sarthou said: “We are evaluating our options and will comply within the requisite time frame.”

A spokesperson for PAID refused to comment for this piece.

The fundraising reports ordered released are part of a $15 million “line-of-credit” deal between PAID, which is guaranteeing the credit line on behalf of taxpayers, and the Host Committee. Should the committee fail to raise the required $65 million organizers say is needed to pull off the event, they would be permitted to access $15 million, Billy Penn reported earlier this month.

Should organizers fail to repay any of the loan, taxpayers would bail them out.

Host Committee chairman and former Governor Ed Rendell recently admitted that his organization was still approximately $10 million short.

In his 11-page response yesterday, attorney Kyle Applegate disputed the Host Committee’s claims that the records are proprietary information.

“PHL 2016 has not demonstrated the requisite competition in order to claim that the records are confidential proprietary information,” Applegate wrote, referring to the Committee’s assertion that releasing the records would damage its alleged competitive advantage for organizing the DNC (because there is no other entity except PHL 2016 that is organizing the DNC).

Putting another nail in the Host Committee’s argument, OOR added that after the convention is over, the Committee’s “sole function ceases to exist”.

The Host Committee also argued that “if these reports were to indicate that the security funding is less than the level proposed, there could be negative impacts on preparedness and public safety.”

Open Records refuted in its letter the Committee’s claim that release of the documents would pose a security threat to the political convention scheduled in late July, writing that “while the Democratic National Convention has been designated as a National Special Security Event, this does not mean that the disclosure of records pertaining to the event necessarily poses a security risk.”

“PHL 2016 has not met its burden of proof, and the records are subject to public access,” the determination concluded.

Check out the arguments submitted by Ballard Spahr LLP, which serves as counsel for the Host Committee, as well as affidavits from the committee’s Executive Director Kevin Washo and Chief Operating Officer Eliza Rose below:

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