Like the president they’ll renominate in Charlotte, Democratic convention organizers are scrambling to raise money.
But convention officials Wednesday again denied news reports that they’re millions of dollars short.
“I’m confident the host committee will raise the money we need to put on a successful convention,” said Kristie Greco, a Democratic National Convention Committee spokeswoman.
The Washington Post, citing unnamed sources, reported that organizers had raised about $20 million, $16 million short of their goal. Other news reports have cited bigger shortfalls.
Host committee spokeswoman Suzi Emmerling would not say how much money has been raised, but denied the $20 million figure. “It’s not accurate,” she said.
Businessman Cammie Harris, one of the host committee’s top fundraisers, said he doesn’t know how much has been raised but believes it’s more than $20 million.
“I would think that they’re probably short,” he said. “But I don’t think they’re $16 million short, no.”
Convention fundraising is traditionally slow. And Harris said he’s detected no signs of panic by host committee leaders.
But the reports come at a time when President Barack Obama finished a second straight month behind presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney in fundraising.
They also come as Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers, co-chair of the convention host committee and one of its biggest fundraisers, is embroiled in the messy aftermath of his company’s merger with Raleigh-based Progress Energy.
Convention organizers have been mum on fundraising other than to say, as Mayor Anthony Foxx did Tuesday, that it’s “right on track.”
The contract between the host committee and the Democratic National Campaign Committee says periodic public updates would be mutually agreed upon. But, in a recent interview, Rogers told the Observer that it was the DNCC that initiated the decision to not offer such fundraising updates.
“I think the Democratic Party, the DNCC, thought it was better not to be continuously updating the numbers and get into that rhythm and we would give full disclosure after (the convention is) over,” Rogers said.
‘A lot of time raising money’
In trying to raise the required $37 million for the convention itself, host committee organizers are working under self-imposed rules that ban corporate money and limit the size of personal donations to $100,000. However, the rules don’t apply to the $15 million or so they’re raising for hospitality events.
Previous Democratic conventions have relied heavily on big-money groups. Republicans still do.
The Tampa Bay Host Committee has raised about 80 percent of the $55 million it needs to help stage next month’s Republican National Convention, host committee president Ken Jones told a group of business leaders last month. The committee depends heavily on corporate support, with half coming from Florida-based corporations and half from outside the state, he said.
Obama has his own fundraising troubles. He and his party raised $35 million less than Romney and the Republican Party in June and $17 million less in May.
The president and his convention sometimes compete for the same donors. Foxx and Rogers have both piggy-backed on presidential fundraising trips to raise money for the convention.
“If you get something from the president saying ‘Send me $1,000’ and something from Mayor Foxx saying ‘Send me $1,000,’ … yes, that’s competition, but it’s not unusual,” said Don Fowler, a South Carolina Democrat who ran the 1988 convention in Atlanta.
Former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt, chairman of the convention steering committee, acknowledged fundraising has been tough.
“All I know is I spend a lot of time raising money,” he said. “It is hard. But we’re getting there.”
Again citing unnamed sources, the Post said some critics say Rogers has been too distracted by his company’s merger and the ensuing controversy over its leadership to spend time on the convention.
But Duke spokesman Tom Williams said Rogers “has been working very hard (on fundraising) … And he’s done it with grit, determination and a continual focus on Charlotte and our region.”
Among other things, Williams said, Rogers used his own money to hire an assistant who works full time on fundraising. Williams said Rogers has lined up commitments of up to $11 million on top of the $10 million line of credit to convention organizers. He personally contributed $100,000 and recruited former President Bill Clinton to appear at some convention fundraisers.
One Democratic source who asked not to be named said, “We’ve heard from high-end donors – they’re getting called. (Rogers) is doing the lifting. And they’re not small asks.”
Fowler said fundraising questions are nothing new for conventions.
In 2008, for example, Denver organizers struggled for a year and a half before announcing it met its goal – days before the convention opened.
“Money is never easy for Democrats in this kind of situation,” he said. “There is no reason to go around at this point and holler the sky is falling.”