Democrats quietly take corporate money for Charlotte convention

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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There’s yet another glitch with the Democrats’ trouble-plagued campaign convention in Charlotte, N.C.

Democrats tried to burnish their anti-Wall Street claims by promising in February 2011 that the $37 million convention wouldn’t accept corporate dollars.

But the convention’s host committee has been quietly soliciting corporate money to pay for convention-related activities.

The stealthy reversal was highlighted by the Wall Street Journal, which exposed a fund-raising group dubbed the New American City fund.

Money raised by the fund will be used to “defray administrative expenses incurred by the host committee organizations themselves, such as salaries, rent, travel and insurance,” according to a document filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The fund was created in April 2011, only two months after top Democrats announced that they would not use corporate funds for their convention.

The fund plans to raise at least $10 million. It is already getting money from Bank of America and Duke Energy, both of which are based in Charlotte. According to the Wall Street Journal, the third largest donor is Wells Fargo bank, which recently bought a Charlotte-based bank, Wachovia Corp.

Democrats defended the financial maneuvers.

“The [convention] host committee is not accepting corporate money for the convention,” Suzi Emmerling, a spokeswoman for the host committee, told the Wall Street Journal. “But if the host committee does things to promote Charlotte, the rules don’t apply.”

The reversal is yet another embarrassment for the convention, which was set for Charlotte by the Democrats in the hope they could replay President Obama’s narrow 2008 victory this November.

But in recent weeks, North Carolina’s unpopular Democratic governor announced she will not run for re-election, leaving the GOP candidate as the clear favorite.

The state party has also recently been paralyzed by a sexual-harassment scandal, a subsequent payoff, cover-up and succession crisis, while the state’s former leading Democrat — 2004 vice-presidential candidate John Edwards — is undergoing a well-publicized and very embarrassing campaign-fraud trial in Greensboro.

On May 8, a day before Obama announced his support for single-sex marriage, 60 percent of the state’s voters supported a constitutional amendment that confirms marriage as a one-man, one-woman institution. Many of these voters were African-Americans, who were vital to Obama’s 0.3 percent victory-margin in the state in 2008.

That critical African-American voting bloc may be alienated again by gay rights advocates’ push to have single-sex marriage included in the Democratic Party’s official platform, which will be ratified at the convention. Many top Democrats support the inclusion of the plank in the party platform and any objection by Obama’s campaign will likely spur another media controversy and embarrassment.

In 2008, corporations funded two-thirds of the Democratic convention, which cost $60 million.

The 2008 GOP convention was mostly funded by companies. It cost $57 million. The GOP’s 2012 convention in Tampa, Fla., will also rely heavily on corporate funding. The funding allows lobbyists to meet and mingle with office-holders.

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