Democratic National Committee Taps Crony Corporations

Obama InvescoAs Democrats struggle to raise funds to coronate President Obama as nominee in Charlotte, N.C. this September, the role of two crony corporations increases daily.

Bloomberg reported yesterday that the president’s re-election organization will consider moving his acceptance speech at the Democrat National Convention to Bank of America Stadium.

Three unidentified Democrats “involved in the fundraising” told the news service the goal would be to sell more skyboxes to wealthy donors, apparently because fewer are available at Time Warner Cable Arena where the convention is presently scheduled.

“The almost 74,000-seat home of the Carolina Panthers professional football team would also have room for the convention to sell more floor passes close to the stage,” Bloomberg reported. “Planners for the event are struggling to meet a $36.6 million fundraising goal, according to the Democrats, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter.”

Back in November NLPC reported about Democrats’ fundraising struggles then, which apparently have not improved. James Rogers, CEO of Charlotte-based Duke Energy, presides as co-chair of the host committee for the convention, and the company has guaranteed a $10-million loan to the Democratic National Committee in support of staging the convention in Charlotte. Prohibited by the president’s campaign from soliciting donations from corporations and lobbyists, officials nevertheless were supposed to disclose the progress of their fundraising, but have failed to do so, raising suspicions that the results have been meager. DNC officials had proclaimed the gathering would be “the most open and accessible convention in history.”

Trapped between the embarrassment of its shortcomings and the desire to find new ways to raise money, Rogers and the DNC now look to the football venue. The problem there is the stadium is named for one of the biggest recipients of the unpopular TARP bailout, having received two infusions of cash totaling $45 million, plus a taxpayer guarantee of another $118 billion in potential losses. Bank of America also, as Bloomberg noted, was heavily criticized for plans – since abandoned – to charge its debit card customers a $5 monthly fee. And in 2010 the bank lent the DNC $32 million in seemingly unsecured credit, Pajamas Media reported. The only collateral provided was the party’s donor mailing list, and without real value, the bank loans should have been treated as in-kind contributions.

“Donor lists do have value, but very fleeting value,” NLPC’s Ken Boehm told Pajamas Media. “Lists do deteriorate and $15 million is an awful lot of money. So if the bank ends up with the list because the party is broke, where are they going to get their money?”

Not the image the 99-Percent-Conscious Democrats want to portray in the biggest moment on the biggest stage they have only once every four years. But according to Bloomberg’s anonymous Democrat sources, “that would be outweighed by the chance to lure more big-dollar contributors, including corporate foundations, to cover the convention’s costs.”

It’s not surprising the crony corporatism image is easily overlooked, as the financial reward is so great. After all, Bank of America has also donated to groups at the core of the Democrats’ base, including Rainbow/PUSH and ACORN, in addition to helping bail out radical community lenders close to the heart of President Obama. Also the bank’s CEO, Brian Moynihan, donated $10,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2010 and gave Sen. Christopher Dodd $4,300, and Rep. Barney Frank $2,000, over the 2008-2010 election cycles. Both Congressmen were chairmen of their respective chamber’s committees that exercised oversight of banks at the time.

And then there is Duke Energy’s CEO, Rogers. He has contributed to the highest level candidates (president, U.S. Senate, Majority leaders) of both major political parties in recent years, but records show he has greater enthusiasm for Democrats, with $99,700 given by him and his wife to the DNC and to the party’s Senatorial Campaign Committee, versus just $20,800 donated to the Republican counterpart committees.

As NLPC has documented repeatedly, Rogers aggressively endorses President Obama’s (and Democrats’) agenda to promote a “Green” energy economy, cap carbon emissions from fossil fuel-dependent industries, and expand tax breaks, grants, subsidies and mandates for utilities to invest (at huge profits) in expensive (to customers) renewable energy projects. For example, just one of Duke Energy’s lobbying reports (provided by the Center for Responsive Politics) – from the 4th quarter of 2009 – shows the company influenced the following bills related to the aforementioned agenda:

·      American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the stimulus bill)

·      Department of Energy Loan Guarantee issues in the FY09 Omnibus Appropriations Bill

·      Department of Energy Carbon Capture and Sequestration Program

·      American Clean Energy & Security Act

·      Carbon Limits and Energy for America’s Renewal Act of 2009

·      Clean Environment and Stable Energy Market Act of 2009

·      Clean Energy Jobs & American Power Act

·      American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009

·      Responsible Use of Coal Act of 2009

·      Carbon Capture and Sequesstration Stewardship Trust Fund Act of 2009

·      Clean Air Protection Act (EPA regulation of GHGs)

·      Natural Resources Climate Adaptation Act

·      Clean Energy Partnerships of 2009

·      Carbon Dioxide Capture Technology Act of 2009

·      International Climate Change Investment Act of 2009

·      Murkowski amendment to S. 2996 (FY 10 Interior Appropriations) re: EPA endangerment

·      National Clean Energy Superhighways Act of 2009

And those are just the greenhouse gas and renewable energy bills through page 5 on Duke’s 23-page lobbying report for the quarter. Since President Obama took office, Duke Energy has spent more than $17 million (through the third quarter of 2011) to lobby Congress and government agencies, much of it for renewable energy breaks and kickbacks at the expense of taxpayers and the utility’s ratepayers. 

With that kind of money exchanging hands, it’s hard to believe the Democrats can’t raise a few million dollars for their little party in Charlotte later this year, even without corporation and lobbyist donations. Perhaps the promise of skyboxes will inspire the 99-percenters to help cover the expenses too.

Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center.