Dems Punt on Plan to Stage DNC Without Corporate Money

PHOTO: Charlotte mayor Anthony Foxx, right, and Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers, left, react during a news conference to announce Charlotte as the site of the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011.
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For more than a year, the Democratic National Committee touted its "unprecedented" plan to prohibit corporate and lobbyist funding of the 2012 convention in Charlotte, but it found it just couldn't put on a show without the money.

The convention's host committee has acknowledged that it established a separate entity to help shoulder the costs of many of the convention activities this week. That entity, New American City, Inc., has accepted millions of dollars from companies that include Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and most prominently Duke Energy, the nation's largest electric utility, which has sponsored events all over town.

"What was declared was that the convention would be funded differently, and it has been," said Suzi Emmerling, a spokeswoman for the convention host committee.

The lobbyist and corporate money ban held firm for expenses such as designing the stage in the Time Warner Arena and the shuttling of delegates around Charlotte, Emmerling said. But other expenses -- welcome events, concerts, hospitality suites, and more -- are all being underwritten by corporate and union backers.

Duke Energy's CEO Jim Rogers oversaw the host committee effort, and his company has emerged as one of the biggest financial backers of the three-day event. Neither the company nor the host committee will reveal how much Duke gave, but the number is sizeable.

INTERACTIVE: Meet the 2012 Campaign Superdonors

Emmerling said a decision was made by host committee officials to withhold those details until they become public in October, when the committee files its financial reports with federal officials. She could not provide a reason for why dollar amounts from each corporate donor would, for now, remain secret.

"That was a mutual decision between many parties," she said.

Duke Energy spokesman Thomas Williams told ABC News that Jim Rogers had commitments from local companies for $10 million to $11 million before Charlotte was selected as the host city and Duke Energy offered up a $10 million line of credit. Rogers himself gave $100,000. How much more, the company will not say.

READ All ABC News DNC Coverage on Our Democratic Convention Page.

It has also helped to pay for events to entertain the city's Democratic guests -- a concert with singer John Legend, a forum featuring former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, a party at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

As for the reasons behind Duke Energy's donations, Williams points to community boosterism -- Rogers' desire to see the Charlotte-based company promote its home city on a national stage.

Experts who have studied the influence of money on the political process have a different theory as to why corporations such as Duke Energy invest so heavily.

"What you are seeing are companies demonstrating their loyalty, their willingness to play the game," said Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law professor who authored the book "Republic, Lost. How Money Corrupts Congress."

"It's all about business," he said. "It's about building relationships that businesses need in a world where the government is so deeply enmeshed in giving privileges or in enabling government spending or regulating the ways it affects the life and death of these businesses."

Duke Energy faces an array of high-stakes issues in Washington.

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