In 2016, both the Democratic and Republican conventions were held before the Summer Olympics instead of after, as was the case in 2008 and 2012. One reason the Republican Party scheduled their convention in July was to help avoid a longer, drawn-out primary battle similar to what happened in 2012, which left the party fractured heading into the general election and eventually led to Mitt Romney losing the election to Barack Obama. The Democratic Party then followed suit, scheduling their convention in Philadelphia the week after the Republicans' convention, to provide a quicker response. On May 3, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus declared Donald Trump the presumptive nominee after Texas senator Ted Cruz dropped out of the race. The next day, Ohio Governor John Kasich suspended his campaign, effectively making Trump the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. Trump was the first presidential nominee of a major party since Wendell Willkie, the Republican candidate in 1940, who has held neither political office nor a high military rank prior to his nomination. He was also the first presidential nominee of a major party without political experience since General Dwight D. Eisenhower first captured the Republican presidential nomination in 1952. This was the first Republican National Convention to be held entirely in July since 1980. and CBS News live streamed the convention via Twitter.
On April 2, 2014, the Republican National Committee announced that Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City and Las Vegas were the finalists for hosting the convention. In late June 2014, Cleveland and Dallas were announced as the final two contenders to be the host city. Cleveland was selected on July 8, 2014.
The 2016 Cleveland Host Committee, an Ohio nonprofit corporation with no political affiliation, is the official and federally designated Presidential Convention Host Committee for the convention. It is responsible for "organizing, hosting and funding" the convention; it also aims "to promote Northeast Ohio and ensure Cleveland is best represented, and to lessen the burden of local governments in hosting the 2016 Republican National Convention". The Host Committee is composed of prominent Ohio business executives, civic leaders, and other community leaders. David Gilbert, CEO of Destination Cleveland and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, is the President and CEO of the host committee. Organizers have found it hard to raise the money needed to put on the convention, which is normally supported by corporate donations. Corporations that donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the 2012 convention but nothing in 2016 include JPMorgan Chase, General Electric, Ford Motor Company, Motorola Solutions and Amgen. Reluctance to be associated with Trump, or concern that the convention might be disrupted by floor fights or violence, were sometimes cited as factors in the decision to withhold funds. In July as the convention got under way, the Cleveland Host Committee said it had raised $58 million of its $64 million goal. They asked billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who often contributes to Republicans, to make up the $6 million shortfall.
Quicken Loans Arena was selected in July 2014 as the host site for the 2016 Republican National Convention. The arena hosted the first Republican presidential debate of the 2016 election, aired by Fox News Channel, on August 6, 2015. The convention was held July 18–21, 2016.
The Cleveland 2016 Host Committee, who "facilitated construction of the 'cloakroom" space' for Republican lawmakers, which consisted of an "exclusive office, lounge and gathering space" built on the Cleveland Cavaliers practice court, received $923,100 from the Friends of the House 2016 LLC". Bank records obtained by the Center for Public Integrity show that
Comcast, Microsoft, the American Petroleum Institute, Chevron, Koch Companies Public Sector, PhRMA, and other trade and lobby groups, "funded a limited liability company called 'Friends of the House 2016 LLC' to pay for the 'cloakroom.'
Security arrangements and planning
The convention is designated as a National Special Security Event, meaning that ultimate authority over law enforcement goes to the Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security. A highly publicized online petition by gun activists to allow the open carry of guns inside Quicken Loans Arena garnered 45,000 signatures; however, the Secret Service, which is in charge of convention security, announced that it would not allow guns in the arena (or the small "secure zone" immediately outside it) during the event, releasing a statement in late March 2016 saying: "Individuals determined to be carrying firearms will not be allowed past a predetermined outer perimeter checkpoint, regardless of whether they possess a ticket to the event." The Secret Service has the authority to restrict guns, firearms or other weapons from entering any site where it is protecting an individual.
The Cleveland Police Department received $50 million in federal grants to support local police operations during the event. With this grant money, the City of Cleveland sought to purchase over 2,000 riot control personnel gear sets prior to the convention for $20 million, and the remaining $30 million is expected to go to personnel expenses. Items such as water guns, swords, tennis balls and coolers have been banned by the City of Cleveland from the 1.7-square-mile "event zone" outside the convention hall by the City of Cleveland, but because of a statewide open-carry law permitting the open carrying of guns, firearms are permitted. The Cleveland chapter of the NAACP raised concerns in March 2016 in a letter to city and county leaders about security at the Convention, writing that police were unprepared for a "possible mix of protesters and demonstrators brandishing guns." The Cleveland Police Union also raised concerns similar to those raised by the local NAACP in March, writing that equipment and training for police was behind schedule. On July 16—the eve of the convention—the Cleveland Police Union asked Governor John Kasich to temporarily suspend Ohio's state open-carry gun law so as to block the carrying of guns within the event zone, but Kasich rejected the request, writing: "Ohio governors do not have the power to arbitrarily suspend federal and state constitutional rights or state laws as suggested."
Before the convention there were a number of online phishing expeditions that may have been hackers looking for weak spots in the convention's network. The computer network of the Democratic National Committee had already been penetrated by hackers linked with the Russian government, compromising, among other things, the database of opposition research on Trump. On July 17, 2016, The New York Times reported that "Cleveland has assigned about 500 police officers specifically to handle the convention and it has brought in thousands more officers to help, from departments as distant as California and Texas."
The Los Angeles Times wrote at the end of March 2016 that fears of a turbulent and volatile convention atmosphere were heightened because of a variety of factors: "a city scarred by controversial police shootings and simmering with racial tension; a candidate [Trump] who has threatened that his supporters will riot if he comes with the most delegates but leaves without the nomination; and a police force with a reputation for brutality." Concerns specifically focused on the ability of the Cleveland Police Department to handle protests in the wake of the Tamir Rice and Michael Brelo cases, and a 2014 Department of Justice investigation that criticized the police department for having a pattern or practice of using "unreasonable and unnecessary force." Left-wing activists have been preparing for the convention since it was announced in 2014. In May 2016, the American Civil Liberties Union threatened to file a lawsuit on behalf of two activist groups, Citizens for Trump and a progressive group called Organize Ohio, asserting that protesters were being inhibited in their attempts to organize effectively by the city's delay in granting permits. As of May 19, six groups had filed for permits, but none had been granted. Cleveland stalled on approving and making public the demonstration applications it received, while Philadelphia (hosting the 2016 Democratic National Convention) had already granted an application. The ACLU sued the city in federal district court on June 14, 2016. As of May 20, 2016, groups that have filed for protest permits have included the AIDS Healthcare Foundation; Global Zero; Organize Ohio, a group of progressive activists; the Citizens for Trump/Our Votes Matter March; Coalition to March on the RNC and Dump Trump; Stand Together Against Trump, an anti-Donald Trump group; People's Fightback Center/March Against Racism; and Created Equal, an anti-abortion group. A pro-Trump group, Trump March RNC, withdrew its application after Trump became the presumptive nominee.
Attendance and officials skipping convention
As Trump rose to become the presumptive presidential nominee of the Republican Party, a number of prominent Republicans announced they would not attend the convention. Of the living former Republican nominees for president, only 1996 nominee Bob Dole announced that he would attend the convention; Romney, John McCain, George W. Bush and George H. W. Bush all announced that they would skip the convention. A number of Republican Governors, U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators, particularly those facing difficult reelection campaigns, also indicated that they would not attend, seeking to distance themselves from Trump and spend more time with voters in their home states. Most notably, Governor Kasich chose to avoid the convention, while Ohio Senator Rob Portman attended the convention but avoided taking a major role in its proceedings. On July 8, 2016, Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse announced that he would not attend the convention. Many Republican senators did not attend the convention at all: Senator Steve Daines of Montana, who would be "fly-fishing with his wife"; Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, who said he had "to mow his lawn"; and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who would be traveling in Alaska by bush plane.
A number of prominent businesses and trade groups, including Coca-Cola, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard, scaled back participation in the convention, sharply reducing their contributions for convention events and sponsorship. In June, six major companies that sponsored the 2012 Republican convention—Wells Fargo, UPS, Motorola, JPMorgan Chase, Ford and Walgreens Boots—announced they would not sponsor the 2016 Republican convention. Apple Inc. followed suit, announcing that it, too, would be withdrawing funding from the convention over Trump's position on certain election issues.
Seating arrangements for state and territorial delegations were announced on July 16, two days before the convention began. The Ohio and Texas delegations were assigned to the back of the convention hall, a move viewed as punishment for the delegations, as they did not back Trump in their respective primaries (Ohio and Texas voted for Kasich and Cruz, respectively).