September 9, 2004
Arizona State University still needs to raise half a million dollars to finance the final presidential debate — with just over a month before the event comes to town.
University officials said they have raised $1.5 million of the $2 million needed for the Oct. 13 debate, which is scheduled to focus on foreign policy and Iraq.
But competition for political donations has been fierce as contributors are squeezed for every penny during an election year. Since April, the university has struggled to raise $700,000.
"We know that a lot of people who care about politics are giving heavily to the campaigns this year," said Neil Giuliano, director for federal and community relations at ASU. "It’s been a challenge to get their attention."
Most of the money will be spent on telecommunications, power and security measures mandated by the Commission on Presidential Debates, said Virgil Renzulli, vice president of public affairs at ASU.
For example, members of the media must have highspeed Internet access, a television set and and two phone lines, he said. He expects more than a 1,000 requests for press credentials from media around the world.
The university also must provide television news crews with a generator to power their equipment, according to the guidelines for the debate. To offset some of their costs, ASU plans to sell the television sets after the debate.
Donations for the debate have been coming from unexpected sources, Renzulli said. Many are coming from small businesses, instead of large corporations and wealthy individuals.
"There have been an awful lot of smaller donors who are just thrilled to play a role in such a significant event," Renzulli said.
Many of the donations have been in kind, meaning the businesses are offering their services instead of cash.
But, some contributions are contingent upon a commitment from President Bush to attend.
The president has threatened to skip one of the three debates proposed by the debate commission.
The Tempe City Council will discuss tonight whether to donate $20,000 to help fund the event. The university had sent the city a letter last month requesting a donation.
But Mayor Hugh Hallman said he will ask for a stipulation that any money donated be dependent upon the president’s commitment.
The Washington Post has reported that Bush’s negotiating team plans to resist the Oct. 8 debate in St. Louis.