Perhaps most consequentially, the convention fundraising comes with a populist twist: Although the host committee needs to raise $37 million, it is banned, under new rules imposed by the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party, from accepting corporate cash and individual donations of more than $100,000 — for the first time in history.
“There is a bit of charting new territory in the sense of doing fundraising this way,” said Dan Murrey, executive director of the host committee. The strategy “is designed to enlist as many individual participants as we can get.”
But behind the scenes, those lofty aims are giving way to a more complicated reality.
The fundraising constraints have left organizers struggling to meet their goals. Four years ago in Denver, organizers raised 72 percent of the total $61 million from donations of $250,000 or more, including a dozen gifts of at least $1 million. This time, organizers in Charlotte are scrambling to raise smaller amounts from more people — and, it appears, to find loopholes in order to finance the festivities.
Convention officials are allowing in-kind corporate donations and unlimited gifts from charitable foundations. And, as Bloomberg News first reported, registered lobbyists, though banned from making direct donations, have been encouraged to raise up to $1 million in bundled donations. They and others who reach such fundraising goals will receive the same type of exclusive access — premium hotel suites and event credentials — that the new rules were intended to prevent.
Furthermore, the host committee has established a second fund — independent of the $37 million— that is not subject to the ban on corporate money. The second fund will be used to stage events that are not part of the official convention activities. That includes the speedway rally, which organizers have declared a “nonpartisan” event — even though the Obama campaign will be allowed to rent space to enlist volunteers for a major fall push in North Carolina and Virginia.
Convention officials reject the idea that they have compromised their rules to beef up fundraising. They point to grass-roots efforts to generate support, including a barbecue sauce competition, a poster contest and an online gift shop hawking Charlotte memorabilia.
Anthony Foxx, mayor of Charlotte and co-chair of the host committee, said he focuses on selling the benefits of economic development in Charlotte and the virtues of the city in making his pitch to potential donors.