Ever since the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee (NRCC) sent out a fundraising email this week asking supporters to “become a Benghazi Watchdog,” Democrats and the media have strongly condemned what they describe as a Republican effort to raise money off the tragedy. Though the email was actually raising money to support Republican efforts to find out the truth about Benghazi –through a special committee headed by Rep. Trey Gowdy — the Democratic attack gained a considerable amount of attention.
But Democrats are no stranger to fundraising off tragedies. Here are four recent tragedies that Democrats attempted to mine either for money or voter data from:
Coffins of dead Iraq War soldiers
In July 2006, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) posted a video to its website featuring the coffins of American soldiers coming home from the Iraq War. The video, released ahead of the midterm elections that led to the House Speakership of Nancy Pelosi, featured an image of then-DCCC chairman Rahm Emanuel, who later became President Obama’s chief of staff.
The Boston Marathon bombings
Just one week after the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) plastered the image “B Strong,” with the Boston Red Sox logo representing the “B,” on its website and encouraged visitors to thank the emergency personnel who served at the previous week’s terrorist attack site.
Visitors were asked to provide their email addresses and zip codes on the website and to agree to allow the DNC to use their personal information for political and advertising purposes. If they chose to submit their personal information, visitors were sent an email from DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz encouraging them to share the DNC’s note of gratitude with their friends.
“We want to make sure that these true American heroes receive all the thanks they deserve,” Schultz wrote. “Can you help spread the word?” After receiving Republican backlash, then-DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse later said that the 30,000 emails his group collected would not be used for fundraising.
The Newtown elementary school shooting
In December 2012, just days after the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Obama chief campaign advisor David Axelrod sent an email to campaign supporters featuring a link to President Obama’s address to the Newtown community. Two “Donate” buttons included in the email requested contributions of up to $1,000 for the recently-victorious Obama campaign.
Democratic Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy admitted in 2013 that Democratic lawmakers only told Newtown families why they were on a plane to Washington, D.C. for a political appearance after they were already on the plane.
“They thought they were coming down here to argue for a ban on high-capacity magazines and universal background checks, and we told them that they were coming to argue to avert a filibuster and allow us to debate,” Murphy said. “And that was really heartbreaking and deflating for some of them. But they rose to the occasion, and it was wonderful to see them at the end of the trip feeling like they had made a difference.”
On April 17, 2013, President Obama stood with Newtown families outside the White House after a Republican Senate filibuster blocked Obama’s background-checks gun control bill. Obama said “This was a pretty shameful day for Washington” and repeatedly referred to the Newtown families surrounding him.
The DCCC posted a statement from its chairman Steve Israel Thursday blasting Republican efforts to fundraise off Benghazi. The webpage featured a prominent “Contribute Now” button in the upper right-hand corner.