VisitPittsburgh & the confidence tricksters

VisitPittsburgh & the confidence tricksters

Well, we’re glad to see that somebody in Pittsburgh “officialdom” finally grew some smarts, so to speak, about Pittsburgh’s dubious bid to host the Republican National Convention (RNC) in 2024.

But we also must admit that we’re quite surprised that it appears the entity that effectively put the kibosh on the bid was the same entity that was gunning for it — VisitPittsburgh.

You’ll recall all the hubbub about Pittsburgh being considered as one of four finalists for the GOP convention in two years. And it had also put in a bid to host the Democrats’ nominating convention.

You’ll also recall all the happy talk about the oodles and boodles of “benefits” Pittsburgh would receive – from the “intangible benefits” of all that media exposure to the supposed “economic benefits” of massive spending by conventioneers.

Never mind that it’s abundantly clear that much of the media exposure for these kinds of events – at least in modern times – ends up being negative, what with wall-to-wall coverage of the clashes outside convention halls that regularly develop.

And never mind it’s quite well documented that claims of large spending infusions routinely are overstated and, because of security concerns, many merchants don’t see their sales soar but dry up.

Then, too, never mind that nobody was really willing to give up the ghost as to how much public money was in the GOP bid. Given that Pittsburgh now is out of the running, it behooves public officials to reveal the details of that bid.

All this said, Politico.com, which first reported Pittsburgh having made bids for the respective parties’ conventions, now reports on how the bid for the RNC died on the vine:

A “Pennsylvania Republican official familiar with talks about the convention said the RNC reached out to Pittsburgh’s host team about sponsoring a reception [at last week’s RNC winter meeting].

“But after Pittsburgh inquired with another finalist city about their reception plans — and learned the competing city planned to spend as much as $250,000 on an event at the RNCgathering — the Republican official said the Pittsburgh team determined it was unable to write that kind of check.

“In a statement Thursday from VisitPittsburgh, spokesperson Shannon Wolfgang said the city … currently does not have ‘a local funding mechanism in place and therefore declined the invitation to hold a reception at the RNC winter meeting.’”

Allow us to put words in Wolfgang’s mouth – the price was simply too high and not worth the questionable returns.

Now, the delusional among us will argue how all this is proof-positive that Pittsburgh requires “a local funding mechanism” to wine-and-dine those promising grand benefits from events that, in reality, bring far, far less to the table than promised.

(By the way, that would be the same crowd that keeps insisting that the public must be forced to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new hotel to bring in more business at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.)

But it is heartening to see that even VisitPittsburgh – perhaps better known as the Department of Economic Benefits Hyperbole – had to finally admit (even if it was by default) that cost really is an object.

Nashville now is said to be leading the pack for the GOP convention in 2024. We can only imagine that’s the case because it’s ready to throw lots of public dollars at the RNC.

But as confidence tricksters are wont to say: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).