Dems Punt on Plan to Stage DNC Without Corporate Money

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Duke received more than $200 million in federal stimulus funds prior to the Charlotte announcement. While Duke was in the midst of committing its funds, federal regulators were reviewing a major merger it was undertaking with a Florida power company -- a merger that has now been approved. Still to be determined -- whether the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will extend the license for a nuclear plant in Florida.

Dozens of more granular issues are under consideration by Congress at any given time. Duke Energy has spent in excess of $5 million on federal lobbying in each of the past four years, and is on pace to spend even more money this year.

Jack Abramoff, one of the most powerful lobbyists in Washington before he was convicted on bribery-related charges in 2006, told ABC News that major companies see the conventions as an enormous opportunity to wine and dine public officials.

"They're people who want something back," said Abramoff, who has championed reform since being released from prison. "They're doing it because they have an agenda."

Williams confirmed that Duke Energy's lobbyists have been having an extremely busy work week.

"I know they're here and going to lots of parties," he said.

But he disputes the idea that the company's decision to help underwrite the Charlotte convention was in any way motivated by a desire to sway the actions of elected officials.

"It's not about trying to curry special favor," he said. "We win whenever Charlotte wins. We are a civic booster, we are expected to take a role in these civic efforts. We have in the past and we will in the future."

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