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Democrats Fundraise With Scorned Super-PACS, Lobbyists

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Tony and Heather Podesta
Heather Podesta, left, and Tony Podesta in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 2, 2011. Democratic conclave beginning Sept. 4 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The husband-and-wife lobbying team of Heather and Tony Podesta held two brunches within walking distance of the convention’s main venues. Photographer: Rebecca D'Angelo/The Washington Post

Sept. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Lobbyists, corporate donors and super-political action committees are routinely the subject of scorn by Democrats. All three featured prominently this week during the party’s national convention.

“The Democrats are walking a tight rope at the convention and, more broadly, in their campaigns,” said Sheila Krumholz, director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group. “They’ve had to eat their words.”

The center’s researchers visited Tampa, Florida last week for the Republican National Convention and are in Charlotte, North Carolina with the Democrats this week. Krumholz’s conclusion: “The money is absolutely on display.”

Companies including Duke Energy Corp. and Bank of America Corp., based in Charlotte, have contributed $20 million toward the cost of the convention, likely through a separate host committee called New American City Inc. That’s after Democratic leaders said last year they wouldn’t allow companies to help the party pay for the estimated $52 million event.

Apart from underwriting the three-day convention that will culminate tonight in President Barack Obama’s re-election nomination, there were plenty of ways for companies to participate.

Corporate Events

Real Clear Politics, a political news and polling aggregator, and Research in Motion’s BlackBerry co-sponsored a party on Sept. 4. A charity baseball event the same day for delegates and other convention-goers, held at the ballpark of the minor-league Charlotte Knights, displayed prominently its corporate and union sponsors. They included Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., which is based in Illinois; the National Air Traffic Controllers Association; and the National Association of Broadcasters.

Even as the Democratic plank calls for curbs on “the influence of lobbyists and special interests on our political institutions,” corporate and issue advocates mingled with elected officials at some of Charlotte’s finer establishments.

The husband-and-wife lobbying team of Heather and Tony Podesta held two brunches within walking distance of the convention’s main venues. Heather Podesta said the brunches are “a great way to host friends, colleagues and make new acquaintances.”

Unlimited Donations

Meanwhile, Democrats who have been squeamish about super-PACs because they can take unlimited donations from corporations, unions and individuals, cast aside those reservations when they had opportunities to rub elbows with the groups’ mega-donors.

Priorities USA Action, which backs Obama, joined with super-PACs involved in U.S. House and Senate races to fete their donors. Those groups held a welcome cocktail reception Sept. 4 that included a money pitch from former Bill Clinton adviser Paul Begala and a brunch yesterday at which Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, appeared.

The donors will go out with a bang tonight after Obama’s speech. They’ll mingle with the rock band Scissor Sisters and actress Jessica Alba during a private party scheduled for the North Carolina Music Factory.

To contact the reporters on this story: Julie Bykowicz in Charlotte, North Carolina at Or; Jonathan D. Salant in Charlotte, North Carolina at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at

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