Dallas fought releasing its contracts with the NRA. The AG said it should. So where are they?

Gun Rights

More than three months after KERA requested the contracts signed in 2019 between the city-owned convention center and the National Rifle Association for its annual meeting this year — and after an Attorney General’s ruling saying the documents must be released — how much the pro-gun rights group is paying the city was still unknown Friday morning.

The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center is city-owned but operated by an asset management company.

City officials have been mostly silent about any details of what’s going on with the NRA convention.

KERA requested a copy of contracts between the NRA and OVG360 — the convention center’s asset manager — in late February.

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The city declined to provide a copy and sought a ruling from the Texas Attorney General on whether some of the information it contained could be released.

An assistant city attorney claimed that release of the information KERA requested would “hinder the city’s review and evaluation of the submitted proposals, impede the selection of a successful proposer, and obstruct the good faith negotiation of key terms of the services contract with the successful proposer.”

KERA then requested that the city release the portions of the contract that weren’t being contested. In response, the city sent a copies of two contracts that had all of the dollar amounts redacted.

The Office of the Attorney General delivered a ruling on the city’s petition on May 10. The AG’s Office stated that the city had failed to demonstrate that a provision of the Texas Public Information Act allowing governments to protect information that could “harm its interests by providing an advantage to a competitor or bidder in a particular competitive situation…” applied to KERA’s request.

“Therefore, we conclude the city may not withhold any portion of the submitted information under section 552.104(a) of the Government Code and it must be released,” Paige Lay, an assistant attorney general with the state’s open records division wrote in the opinion.

The requested documents had not been released as of Friday morning. A records clerk with the city told KERA that the department was waiting on the City Attorney’s Office to make the documents available.

KERA again contacted city officials for comment Thursday evening but had not received a response as of Friday morning.

Determining the financial costs and benefits of signing up a group to hold its convention in Dallas — or any other city — can be complicated.

The group holding the convention typically pays for the venue, but at the same time may get significant financial breaks or subsidies. That’s because city and convention officials tout conventions as a boost to the local economy — especially for hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues.

WFAA-TV (Channel 8) has reported that the NRA could receive up to $1 million in local and state subsidies for bringing the convention to Dallas, according to Texas Event Trust Fund documents.

The fund is used to help communities with paying for large events — like the NRA convention. According to state documents, Visit Dallas, the city’s tourism arm, applied for the subsidy in early January. The tourism entity is putting up almost $140,000, while the state has agreed to throw in just over $860,000.

When the NRA hosted its meeting in Houston in 2022, it got less than half the subsidy it is receiving to bring the event to Dallas. The Houston meeting grew around 20,000 people, according to state records.

‘DPD will always respond’

But there also are costs, in addition to what a city might need to pay to its convention staff and support.

Extra police protection may be required if a convention event potentially could draw protests, or be the target of violence.

Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is scheduled to speak at the event. Having a former or current president appear at an event inevitably demands more security. Trump was a special speaker during the NRA’s 2018 meeting — which was hosted in Dallas as well.

KERA asked the Dallas Police Department previously about its security plan for the event. Although the event could draw tens of thousands of people, the department declined to comment on the specifics.

When asked for comment again about the security plans — given Trump’s slated appearance — a DPD spokesperson told KERA to reach out to the U.S. Secret Service.

“As always, the Dallas Police Department constantly monitors for events and shares intelligence regarding any potential threats to events, groups, or infrastructure in our city,” Brian Martinez, a department public information officer, said in an email to KERA.

“DPD will always respond if there is a need for police presence…we will not get into specifics on security plans for safety and security reasons,” Martinez added.

In advance of Trump’s appearance at the NRA convention in Dallas in 2018, according to a Dallas Police Department memo, officials expected “numerous protests” during the event. And the city’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) was also activated “in response to security concerns.”

“We worked with local, state, and federal partners to monitor…security not only for the attendees, but the planned and potentially unplanned protests that were scheduled around this event,” an annual OEM report said.

About that time The Dallas Morning News columnist Robert Wilonsky reported that VisitDallas, the city’s tourism arm, also paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in subsidies to cover some of the cost of the venue rental at the time the contract was signed in 2012.

The funds used to complete the deal came from the Dallas Tourism Public Improvement District (DTPID). Hotels pay into the district — and in return some of that money is earmarked to pay for incentives to encourage groups to book large events in Dallas.

The DTPID was formed just months prior to the NRA contract, according to The News.

KERA reached out to the city back in March to see if the same deal had been made for this year’s NRA conference.

“DTPID did provide an incentive to the National Rifle Association based off their actual guest room pick-up, which will be known following the conclusion of the event,” Visit Dallas Senior Vice President Jennifer Walker told KERA in a statement at the time.

Convention opposition

The NRA’s 2024 event is expected to attract many thousands of NRA members — and also gun violence opponents as well.

The Dallas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is planning a rally for Saturday outside of city hall.

Along with the group “community gun prevention leaders, survivors of gun violence, coalition partners and faith leaders” will be rallying for NRA accountability, according to the event description.

Miriam Sharma, a Dallas-based gun violence prevention advocate, told KERA in March that the group’s annual event shouldn’t be taking place on city property.

“We won’t stand for this, we won’t stand for them coming to our city to market to children,” Sharma said. “We have to know the gun industry, with the NRA acting as a shield, plays a major role in gun violence in America.”

The NRA’s website bills the event as a “freedom-filled weekend for the entire family.” Sharma has said that the kinds of weapon manufacturers that the convention attracts aren’t for everyone.

“Those aren’t the type of guns that people are going to use for hunting,” Sharma said. “So they are actively marketing very, very destructive weapons.”

The NRA’s website lists hundreds of companies that will be at its convention this year. Among them is a company whose lineup of weapons includes the semiautomatic AR-15 rifles.

And there are companies selling accessories — another vendor touts its high-performance silencers.

The convention will last from Friday through Sunday.

Got a tip? Email Nathan Collins at ncollins@kera.org. You can follow Nathan on Twitter @nathannotforyou.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

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