Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Politics

Democratic convention organizers took corporate money despite promise not to

Democratic convention organizers broke their pledge to stage the 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.

In an interview during the convention in Charlotte, N.C., Democratic National Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said organizers had "exceeded that bar" and had financed the event without special-interest money. But Federal Election Commission 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.

In addition, the host committee drew nearly $8 million of a $10 million line of credit provided by Duke Energy, whose chief executive, Jim Rogers, was co-chairman of the host committee. It has until Feb. 28 to repay the loan. Duke gave $5.7 million in in-kind contributions and cash donations to New American City and the Committee for Charlotte, the arm of the host committee that produced the convention.

New American City, which paid hospitality and administrative costs, raised $19 million — nearly all from corporations. Bank of America, headquartered in Charlotte, gave $5 million. AT&T donated $1 million, while Time Warner Cable contributed $600,000. Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks Studios donated $2 million to the nonprofit fund on Sept. 4, the first day of the convention.

Although corporations could not contribute cash to the Committee for Charlotte, they could donate goods and services, as Microsoft, Coca-Cola and Adobe did. The committee accepted donations from unions, which gave at least $2.65 million. And wealthy individuals, such as San Francisco hedge fund manager Thomas Steyer, real estate executive Constance Milstein and Slim-Fast founder S. Daniel Abraham together gave millions more.

The host committee still has more fundraising to do: It ended September $8.7 million in debt, with just $1 million in the bank.

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