The head of the Democratic National Committee distanced herself Thursday from the effort to raise money for her party's 2012 convention in Charlotte, which fell millions short despite breaking a pledge to forgo cash from special interests.
At a campaign event in North Carolina, DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz said she knew nothing about the sources for the $24 million raised by the convention's host committee, an amount well-short of its $36.7 million goal.
To make up the gap, organizers spent $5 million donated by corporations to rent the convention hall and borrowed nearly $8 million more from a credit line underwritten by a corporation, according to financial disclosure reports filed Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission.
"I haven't seen the report, and I'm not familiar with the details of it," Wasserman Shultz said Thursday at a campaign rally in Raleigh. "You have to speak to the host committee."
Repeated efforts by The Associated Press over the last month to reach Dan Murrey, the executive director of the Charlotte in 2012 host committee, have been unsuccessful. A spokesman said this week Murrey was out-of-town on vacation and could not be reached.
Wasserman Shultz was among several top Democrats who pledged prior to last month's convention that the host committee wouldn't raise money from special interests.
"This convention will be different," Wasserman Schultz said last year at the convention kickoff event in Charlotte. "We will make this the first convention in history that does not accept any funds from lobbyists, corporations or political action committees. This will be the first modern political convention funded by the grassroots, funded by the people."
But records show much of the $24 million raised by the convention host committee came from special interest groups that employ lobbyists, corporate-funded foundations and wealthy individuals whose donations exceeded the committee's self-imposed cap of $100,000.
It is legal for convention host committees to raise unlimited special interest money, in contrast to the donation limits placed on political campaigns. But Democrats had touted their self-imposed limits on convention fundraising to contrast themselves with Republicans, who made no bones about soliciting corporate money for their convention.
The Tampa host committee reported raising $55.8 million, according to its disclosure report.
Charlotte in 2012 signed a contract with the Democratic National Convention Committee to raise $36.7 million in private funds to pay for convention costs not covered by federal money. Convention organizers also created a second entity, New American City, to raise corporate money for hospitality events and other expenses.
Murrey and other convention officials said repeatedly the corporate money raised by New American City would not be used for anything inside the convention hall where President Barack Obama received his party's nomination for a second term.
As the host committee fell more than $12 million short of its fundraising target, however, the $5 million rental fee for the basketball arena used to hold the convention was paid for with corporate donations raised by New American City.
The $7.9 million borrowed from the committee's bank line of credit was guaranteed by Charlotte-based Duke Energy, the nation's largest electricity provider. The company's agreement with convention organizers calls for that money to be repaid by Feb. 28.
The reports also show the Democrats created numerous exemptions to their self-imposed fundraising restrictions, accepting millions in donations from unions and in-kind corporate donations of food, office space, computers and furniture.
Charlotte in 2012's report also indicates three individual donations in excess of its self-imposed $100,000 cap, including $500,000 from Thomas Steyer, a billionaire hedge fund investor. DNC spokeswoman Melanie Roussell said Wednesday the donations in question were reporting errors that would be corrected.
Donations were also accepted from charities funded by corporations, such as $100,000 from the Xerox Foundation.
Also not subject to the Democrats' ban on corporate donations were law firms, such as the $100,000 donated by McGuire Woods LLP. In addition to being one of the South's largest law firms, McGuire's consulting subsidiary employs dozens of registered state and federal lobbyists.
More modest checks came from the American Financial Services Association, which represents credit card and financial companies, and the senior group AARP. Both are registered as entities that lobby the federal government.
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