President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign is considering moving the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, to Bank of America Stadium to sell more skyboxes to wealthy donors, according to three Democrats involved in the fundraising.
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. 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.
Obama’s advisers are aware of the political downside of the president delivering his nationally televised acceptance in a stadium named for a bank that considered imposing a fee that he said would have “mistreated” customers, they said.
That would be outweighed by the chance to lure more big-dollar contributors, including corporate foundations, to cover the convention’s costs, the three Democrats said. The rest of the convention, scheduled to begin Sept. 3, will be conducted at the Time Warner Cable Arena.
Joanne Peters, press secretary for the Charlotte convention, said, “We plan to hold the convention at the Time Warner Cable Arena.”
Four Years Later
An outdoor finale for the convention would echo the atmosphere of four years ago in Denver, when Obama accepted his party’s nomination under a clear Colorado night at Invesco Field.
The administration has had a mixed relationship with Charlotte-based Bank of America Corp. In May of 2010, Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Obama, praised Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan for having a “level of corporate responsibility beyond the bank.”
Last October, Obama criticized a planned $5 dollar monthly fee that Bank of America was going to charge its debit card users. He said that while banks have a right to set fees, he questioned the bank’s explanation for the new charge.
“People have been using financial regulation as an excuse to charge consumers more,” Obama said at a White House news conference on Oct. 6. Following complaints from consumers, the bank shelved its plans to impose the fee.
The Charlotte host committee is having difficulty raising money because it’s prohibited from taking funds from corporations and lobbyists, which parties have relied on in the past for nominating conventions, the people said.
The host committee is trying to work around the restrictions, imposed by Obama, by asking for “in-kind” contributions from corporations and accepting unlimited funds from non-profit organizations such as charitable foundations associated with major corporations.
Jim Rogers, chief executive of Duke Energy Corp. and chairman of the Charlotte host committee, has tried to clarify the rules for potential donors.
At a Dec. 15 briefing at the Jefferson Hotel in Washington, Rogers, along with Steve Kerrigan, the convention’s chief executive officer, sought to enlist federally registered lobbyists, who are barred from contributing directly to Obama’s campaign or convention, to get corporate clients to help underwrite the convention, according to two of the people.
The main host committee will accept in-kind contributions from corporations and cash from corporate foundations, individual and partnerships, the two people said Rogers and Kerrigan told the assembled lobbyists and potential donors. Rogers and Kerrigan also said they were behind their fundraising goals, the people said.
The committee reserves the right to reject in-kind contributions and, for example, won’t accept donations from firms that received TARP funds.
Suzi Emmerling, a spokeswoman for the host committee, challenged the notion that they were having a difficult time raising money.
“Our fundraising is right on track,” she said, without providing the amount raised so far.
A pitch from the host committee outlines four different tiers for high-level donors and what they can expect to receive for their contribution.
At the $1 million “presidential” level, donors will receive a “premier uptown hotel room,” a “platinum credential package,” a “platinum events package,” as well as “concierge services.”
At the $500,000 “Gold Rush” level, donors are given a hotel room, a credential and a “premiere events package.”
The fundraising appeal, e-mailed to potential donors before Rogers’s Washington visit in December, emphasized that contributions to the host committee are tax-deductible.
A separate fund set up to promote the city of Charlotte and provide “hospitality functions” for the estimated 35,000 people expected to attend the convention can accept direct corporate contributions and won’t “impose a limit on contributions,” Emmerling said.
The Republican convention, scheduled for the week of Aug. 27 in Tampa, Florida, hasn’t imposed similar restrictions on its donors and will accept contributions from lobbyists and corporations, said Sean Spicer, spokesman for the Republican National Committee.