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Investing in Dems
Qwest and Xcel pledge millions if convention comes to Denver
By Gargi Chakrabarty
Rocky Mountain News
Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Qwest has promised to pony up $6 million if Denver hosts the Democratic National Convention in 2008.  The pledge, revised last Thursday from its original commitment of $5 million made six weeks earlier, makes the local telecom the largest potential sponsor of the political event.

Electric and gas utility Xcel will pay $1.5 million in cash or in-kind service to the DNC if it comes to the Mile High City.

The utilities have made comparable commitments to the Republican National Convention to be held the same year in Minneapolis, their service territory.

If Denver wins the DNC bid over rival New York City, it would be a unique situation for Qwest and Xcel -- they would serve both the Democratic and Republic national conventions.

"We really are not looking at this in a political fashion," said Qwest Colorado President Chuck Ward, who is a member of the finance group of the 2008 Denver Host Committee.  "This is not about DNC in Denver.  This is a significant business opportunity for Denver and Qwest."

The host committee's goal is to raise about $20 million from local businesses, the most ever sought for a single event.

But businesses stand to benefit, too.

The Democratic convention in Denver could have an economic impact of more than $163 million -- similar to what Boston received in 2004 when it hosted the Democratic convention, estimates Richard Scharf, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Ward said Qwest hopes to gain at least $6 million in business.  The telecom has asked the DNC for a range of businesses such as local telephone, long-distance telephone, Internet hosting, a cyber center in Denver, wireless and video services.

"Being a lead corporate sponsor and having users all over the country experience our service is a great opportunity," Ward said, adding the DNC would attract more than 35,000 delegates plus national and international media to the city.  "The exposure for the city and the company would be on the order of a Super Bowl."

Ward was not clear whether the pledge would be recovered from Qwest ratepayers.  He said that was an accounting issue.  "I'd anticipate it would be a business expense," Ward added.

Xcel spokeswoman Ethnie Groves said the commitments would be paid from shareholder profits.  Groves also said Xcel has yet to discuss the details with either the Democratic or the Republican parties.

Gerald Armstrong, a shareholder of both Qwest and Xcel, said the pledges to lure the DNC to Denver were "unconscionable."

By the numbers

$6 million:  Qwest's pledge to the Democratic National Convention in Denver

$1.5 million:  Xcel's pledge to the DNC in Denver

$163 million:  estimated economic impact if Denver hosts convention in 2008

chakrabartyg@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-954-2976

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/energy/article/0,2777,DRMN_23914_5209541,00.html