The Democratic National Committee has no intention of repaying the country’s largest electrical power company for the unprecedented $10 million line of credit it guaranteed to help a local host committee fund last September’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
According to an article on the Washington Times
web site, an official for Duke Energy said the company would claim the money as a business expense for tax purposes, meaning shareholders will foot $6 million of the cost.
The amount of the loan and the secrecy surrounding it has raised red flags for government watchdog groups.
They claim the arrangement smacks of serious conflict-of-interest issues for President Obama and disputes his claim to be committed to disclosure and transparency.
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Since Duke Energy guaranteed the loan, the company had previously refused to issue any information regarding payment terms or when it would come due.
At the end of January, a Duke Energy spokesman referred all questions about the loan to Dan Murrey, a surgeon in Charlotte who acted as chairman of the convention host committee, which is an independent group affiliated with the DNC.
Murrey told The Washington Times only that the line of credit was with two banks — Bank of America and the Charlotte-based Mechanics & Farmers Bank.
“We are still finishing up some collections and disbursements related to the convention, and the account is still open,” Murrey said.
In 2011, The White House originally banned corporate donations to the convention, but with Democratic supporters intent on donating to what would become the most expensive presidential campaign in history, the host committee organizing the convention found itself strapped for cash and reversed the decision.
Jim Rogers, Duke Energy CEO, has said supporting the convention was a good way to get Charlotte unprecedented exposure on an international scale and was also beneficial for his company.
“At the end of the day, we’ll do our best to get our money back,” he told the Charlotte Observer in a January interview.
“But if we don’t, it’s just a contribution we’re making I think for the greater good of our community.”
Rogers also claims he would have done the same for a Republican convention.
Duke Energy’s involvement went beyond the guaranteeing of a loan.
It donated $4.1 million to a separate fund formed to receive corporate money for parties outside the convention hall and $1.5 million in in-kind contributions to the host committee for other expenses, such as office space and furniture.
Watchdog groups say the loan shows that Obama put political expediency above his pledge to run “the most transparent government in history,”
“This is just a blank check for the party, and it undermines the whole [Obama] message of cracking down on special interests’ influence in Washington,” said Tyson Slocum, an energy specialist for Public Citizen, a left-leaning consumer rights advocacy group.
“It’s clear the administration is hypocritical.”
Many watchdogs are seriously concerned about Democrats accepting large donations from Duke Energy, the third-largest coal burning utility in the country.
They fear the favoritism and unfair influence with the Obama administration that could result.
Despite Obama’s crackdown on emissions from coal-fired plants, Duke is one of at least a dozen firms exempted by the administration so it can pursue energy projects paid for by stimulus dollars, according to a report by the Center for Public Integrity.
In 2009, Duke received $200 million in federal stimulus money for “smart-grid” improvements and at least two of the company’s power plants — one in North Carolina and another in Indiana — got hundreds of millions of dollars in “advanced coal” tax credits, as well as federal and local incentives, from the Department of Energy.
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