DNC 2012
6:02 am
Thu October 18, 2012

DNC Fundraisers Came Up $12.5M Short

The Charlotte host committee of the DNC has revealed it came up $12.5 million short of its fundraising goal for the convention and was forced to tap a line of credit guaranteed by Duke Energy. 

WFAE's Julie Rose has been pouring through documents filed with the Federal Election Commission late last night and joins All Things Considered Host Mark Rumsey to share some analysis.

RUMSEY: First of all, Julie, convention organizers vowed to make the 2012 DNC the "the most open and accessible" in history. Part of that was a plan to give regular updates on fundraising. But you asked time and again for those updates and the only response they gave was, "We're right on track."

Now we find out they were $12.5 million short. Were they just lying to you?

ROSE: That's what I asked the host committee after seeing these documents. Here's what executive director Dan Murrey wrote back by email:  "We put on a great convention for less and we remained on target to produce what was ultimately a successful convention."

I guess you could say it all depends on what your definition of "on track" is.

RUMSEY: I see. So the host committee was supposed to raise $36.6 million and they only raised $24.1 million. How did they make up the difference?

ROSE: First of all, they scaled back the cost of the convention by about $5 million. Then they drew $8 million down on a line of credit that Duke Energy agreed to guarantee for the host committee back when Charlotte got the convention. At the time, they said the line of credit was just a precaution - but it turns out it was a necessity - and that's largely because the Democratic Party put some new restrictions on where the convention money could come from.  Corporations, lobbyists and political action committees were prohibited from donating.

RUMSEY: But you just said Duke Energy backstopped that line of credit - if the committee can't pay it off, won't Duke be out the $8 million? 

ROSE: Yes - though the host committee says it's still fundraising to pay that debt.

RUMSEY: But otherwise, corporate money was kept out of the convention?

ROSE: Well, no. Corporations contributed millions through in-kind donations. Office space, for example. It's true the $24.1 million we're talking about came only from individuals and nonprofits groups - including some high-profile CEOs who gave the maximum contribution of $100,000. Locals Jim Rogers of Duke Energy, Pat Rodgers of Rodgers Builders and Howard Bissell of The Bissell Companies are on that list - along with the CEO of Google and comedian Chelsea Handler.

But the host committee also established a separate nonprofit that was not subject to the fundraising restrictions. It raised $20 million - nearly all of it from corporations.  The largest cash donor was Bank of America with $5 million. Duke Energy gave $4 million - and keep in mind it also helped make the $8 million line of credit possible.  Dreamworks gave $2 million in cash.

RUMSEY: And what was that money for?

ROSE: Technically it was only for the host committee's overhead expenses, and for efforts to make Charlotte look good during the convention. The street festival on Labor Day and the big parties for delegates and media came out of that fund. But the host committee also paid the $5 million rental fee for Time Warner Cable Arena out of those corporate donations - and that's hardly an ancillary expense since the convention was held there.  

RUMSEY: So is the host committee apologetic at all about not meeting its financial goals?

ROSE: They say the point is the convention went great, it was great for Charlotte and in the end the fundraising restrictions forced them to get thousands of people donating, rather than a select, wealthy few.  

And I might just add that the Republican Party made no bones about taking big donations from corporations. The RNC host committee in Tampa collected $55 million, including quite a few $1 million corporate gifts.

The Republican convention's single largest donation was from an individual - Sheldon Adelson gave $5 million. He's the Las Vegas businessman known for giving to SuperPACs that support Mitt Romney.