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Date published: 10/19/2012
TRIBUNE WASHINGTON BUREAU
WASHINGTON--Democratic convention organizers broke their pledge to stage the three-day meeting without corporate donations, using $5 million from a committee financed by companies such as Bank of America, Duke Energy and AT&T to rent the Time Warner Arena for the three-day event.
The payments were revealed in reports filed Wednesday evening with the Federal Election Commission.
The limits were part of President Barack Obama's promise to curtail the role of big money in politics, a goal he has struggled to meet. He railed against the influence of outside groups in elections, but gave his blessing this year to a "super PAC" supporting his re-election after GOP-allied groups began to spend millions of dollars to defeat him.
Before the September convention in Charlotte, N.C., organizers said the ban on direct contributions from corporations, lobbyists or political action committees had not hurt their fundraising. In an interview during the convention, Democratic National Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said organizers had "exceeded that bar" and had financed the event without special-interest money.
But FEC reports show that convention organizers raised only $24.1 million of their $36.7 million goal. That forced them to cover the rental fee for the arena with $5 million from New American City, a civic committee set up by the host committee that was allowed to accept corporate cash. Officials had said the nonprofit group would not be used to pay for the convention itself, but rather would cover the costs of overhead, welcome parties and community projects.
Campaign finance reform advocates said the party's promise to bar corporate money proved hollow.
"While it's admirable to pledge to refuse corporate donations, when push came to shove and the Democrats had to choose between their pledge or cutting back on the excessive extravagance of modern-day conventions, they chose extravagance," said David Donnelly, executive director of the Public Campaign Action Fund.
In the end, organizers leaned heavily on corporations to put on the convention.