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KCBS Exclusive: Small Vendors Barred From Republican National Convention By Romney Campaign

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Mitt Romney campaign buttons on a display. (Photo by Chris Maddaloni/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images)

Mitt Romney campaign buttons on a display. (Photo by Chris Maddaloni/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images)

DougSovern20100908_KCBS_0208r Doug Sovern
Doug began his career as a copy boy at the New York Times, and then...
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TAMPA, Fla. (KCBS) -– Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is running as a pro-small business candidate.

But KCBS discovered that merchants who normally sell their wares at events like this week’s Republican National Convention in Tampa have been barred from the site by the Romney campaign, which is looking to maximize its own revenues.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

For years at these political conventions, there has been a marketplace set up where merchants sell campaign buttons and all sorts of political memorabilia.

But those vendors are conspicuously absent this week; instead, there is just an official Romney-Ryan store, a monopoly for the campaign.

Californian Robin Abrams from Irvine is selling the wares of Mort Berkowitz, the legendary “button king.” But she has been forced to do it at a hotel 30 miles away from the Tampa convention site, which she said is terrible for business and for the consumer.

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“You usually have a great variety of items to purchase. There’s an assortment of jewelry, stuffed animals and salad dressing, everything and anything imaginable,” she said. “But there’s very little of that here.”

Abrams said she found it ironic that a campaign that’s using a “we did build that” theme to hammer President Barack Obama has eliminated competition at its convention, making it harder for small business owners to make a living.

“You can look at it that way and that’s how I see it,” said Abrams. “But it’s also taking an opportunity and really maximizing it for their business.”

The Romney campaign is producing its buttons on-site at the convention, but refused to comment on this issue.

Vendors will be allowed to set up as usual at next week’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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