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Charlotte Has Spent $14M On RNC. Will It Get Paid Back?

Spectrum Center

The city of Charlotte said Wednesday that it has spent $14 million to prepare for the Republican National Convention -- an event that may not happen in the city at all.  

President Trump on Tuesday tweeted that because N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper won't allow the Spectrum Center to be fully occupied, the GOP will move the event somewhere else. The Republican National Committee later said that the president's acceptance speech will take place in another city, but that the business aspects of the convention could remain in the city.

The RNC didn't give details about how large a business-only convention might be. The GOP said that depends, in part, on whether the state relaxes its curent limit on gatherings of 10 people indoors as it eases restrictions for the coronavirus outbreak.

City Attorney Patrick Baker said Charlotte is looking for clarity from the GOP about its intentions.

"It’s going to be a concern if we’re spending money and if the intention is to go somewhere else and take the convention completely away from Charlotte," he said.

Baker said he hopes to get more answers from the GOP at a previously scheduled meeting Thursday.

"We're now at June 3rd," he said. "This is the high-gear season for the convention. So that's why it's really important to understand exactly what the communications that came out actually mean going forward."

The city has an agreement with the Justice Department to be reimbursed for up to $50 million in security expenses for the convention.

But it's unclear how the Trump administration will consider security expenses for a convention that took place in another city, or a much-smaller Charlotte convention that orginally envisioned.

As a businessman, the president had a history of unpaid bills. 

City Council member Ed Driggs, a Republican, has said the city would go to court to get reimbursed.

The RNC said it would visit Nashville, Tennessee, later this week about possibly moving the convention there. Republican Gov. Bill Lee said the state could host the convention, but a spokesperson for the city's Democratic Mayor John Cooper said the city doesn't plan to pursue it.

Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.