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AZ Delegates Turn to Crowdfunding to Get to Philly

Arizona Democratic Delegate Dan O’Neal (right) poses with his chosen presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, at a rally earlier this year. (Dan O’Neal)
Arizona Democratic Delegate Dan O’Neal (right) poses with his chosen presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, at a rally earlier this year. (Dan O’Neal)
July 22, 2016

GILBERT, Ariz. - With the cost of attending next week's Democratic National Convention at about $3,000 dollars or more per person, a number of Arizona delegates are finding creative ways to pay for the trip. Since the Democratic Party is not covering airfare, hotel or other costs for delegates to get to Philadelphia, many are using crowdfunding accounts from GoFundMe.com or other sites to come up with the cash.

Dan O'Neal, a delegate from Gilbert, said the thrill of getting elected quickly wore off when the sticker shock of taking the trip set in.

"When you factor in the air fare, the hotel and all the incidentals and expenses for food, it's going to be at least three to four (thousand dollars), maybe more depending on how far you have to fly," he said.

O'Neal, who is pledged to Bernie Sanders, blames good old American capitalism for the high prices.

"The hotel rooms are anywhere between $450 to $700 per night," he added. "But I guess it's partly supply and demand and 50,000 people all trying to be in the same place at the same time."

A spokesman for GoFundMe said about 350 delegates have set up accounts, raising close to $400,000 to pay their way. O'Neal's page showed that by Thursday, his donations had reached about $2,500 toward his $3,000 goal. He said delegates need to take care that the money they raise for the trip isn't counted as a political donation.

"I know that for the GoFundMe accounts, the rule is an individual can do it without any problems," he said. "But if you do a group GoFundMe account, then there are certain Federal Election Commission filings."

O'Neal, who is a retired history teacher and a self-proclaimed political activist, said the Bernie campaign set up a separate website, called FundBernieDelegates.com, to assist Sanders' delegates with raising funds to get to the convention.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - AZ