Cashing in on controversial events is nothing new in politics. The latest fundraising pitch stems from the attacks in Benghazi that left four Americans dead in 2012. Democrats say Republicans should stop using tragedies to rake in cash, but both parties are guilty of uncomfortable money grabs. (Pamela Kirkland/The Washington Post)


Whether it’s terrorist attacks on 9/11, the Iraq War, the shooting massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., or more recently the death of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, it seems nothing is sacred when it comes to what politicians will use to fundraise.

Both parties are, of course, guilty of these tragedy-based pitches, but the latest uproar occurred last week when the National Republican Congressional Committee began to fundraise off the creation of a special committee to investigate the terrorist attacks in Benghazi in 2012.

Democrats cried foul, saying the move to raise money proved the creation of the committee was blatantly political. But Bill Allison, editorial director at the Sunlight Foundation, said the ask was nothing new.

“There’s always an attempt to keep your fundraising relevant to what’s in the news,” he said. “Just like any sort of PR person, they are always trying to get your attention.”

And, as long as money is coming in, there’s really no incentive to stop.

Former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who chaired the National Republican Campaign Committee from 1998 to 2002, said until voters stop giving money based on the controversial pitches, they will continue to be sent.

“It’s not good optics,” he said.“If you raise a decent amount of money, you take the hit. That’s how it works.”

Davis added that it works both ways: Voters who agree with the Benghazi investigation will donate money to the NRCC. Those who are disgusted with the perceived political nature of the investigation and want it to stop will give their money to Democrats.

“This is all part of the dance,” he said.

Former Rep. Martin Frost (D-Texas), a former chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said fundraising off events like Benghazi is a “mistake.”

“I don’t know if there will be a backlash but it increases the public cynicism about politics and about office holders,” he said.

Allison added the willingness to fundraise off anything is another symptom of what is wrong with the current system in Washington.

"The only day they are not fundraising is Election Day,” he said.