Do DNC finance records hide corporate conflicts?

     Xelba Gutierrez leads a protest march demanding that the Democratic National Convention reveal its sources of funding. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    Xelba Gutierrez leads a protest march demanding that the Democratic National Convention reveal its sources of funding. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    About 30 chanting protesters held a lunchtime rally in Center City today to call on Ed Rendell and two other leaders of the Democratic National Committee Host Committee to resign for failing to release financial records and donor details, despite a court order requiring them to do so.

    “Release the records! Reveal your donors!”

    “Hey hey, ho ho! The host committee’s got to go!”

    “DNC, reveal your donors! We don’t like your corporate owners!”

    About 30 chanting protesters held a lunchtime rally in Center City today to call on Ed Rendell and two other leaders of the Democratic National Committee Host Committee to resign for failing to release financial records and donor details, despite a court order requiring them to do so.

    The activists – most Bernie Sanders supporters and members of the activist group Reclaim Philadelphia – then hand-delivered letters to the leaders’ offices, demanding their resignations.

    The protesters claim the men intentionally are hiding fundraising records because the records will show clear conflicts of interest that should concern Democrats, including:

    DNC Host Committee Finance Chairman Daniel Hilferty is a Republican who served on a lobbying group, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), that spent $102.4 million to fight Obamacare. A Hilferty spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
    Rendell, the host committee’s chairman, headed a multimillion-dollar campaign called Fix the Debt, a campaign critics say aims to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. Rendell also supports fracking, a controversial method of natural gas extraction that three-quarters of Democrats oppose. A Rendell spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
    David Cohen, a DNC host committee adviser, backed Republican Tom Corbett for governor. Corbett has caught criticism for cutting millions from the Philadelphia public schools’ budget, prompting about two dozen schools to close. Cohen’s Comcast ties also sparked ralliers’ rage: Cohen is executive vice president at Comcast, which gets tax subsidies. John Demming, a Comcast spokesman, said Cohen received the activists’ letter, but he declined further comment.

    Activists also raised concerns about a fundraising shortfall: In late May, Rendell said the host committee was nearly $10 million short on its $64 million fundraising goal.

    “It’s important that the people of Philadelphia can independently verify how much money the Host Committee has actually raised because the city should not be left holding the bag, as happened after Pope Francis’ visit, and find out after the fact,” said Dustin Slaughter, an editor with the alternative-news website The Declaration, who has been fighting for the financial records since the spring.

    “Unsurprisingly, however, host committee officials such as Ed Rendell condescendingly tell the people of Philadelphia to ‘just be patient’ and wait until 60 days after the convention while ignoring a state order to hand over records that belong to the public now.”

    Philadelphia absorbed $8 million of the costs associated with Pope Francis’ visit last fall.

    Anna Adams-Sarthou, a spokeswoman for the DNC host committee, declined to comment on the protest. But of the financial records, she said: “We are fully in compliance with the law, and to state otherwise is to not understand the facts. As we said repeatedly, we will disclose our donors in accordance with the FEC (Federal Election Commission) 60 days after the convention.”

    Slaughter, who last year launched the Philadelphia Sunshine Project initiative to increase public records access and transparency, in April requested the fundraising reports the DNC host committee submitted to the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development (PAID), a city agency. The host committee initially denied his request, prompting him to appeal to the state Office of Open Records. That office on June 14 ordered the city and committee to release their fundraising and donor documents by July 14. A voicemail left at PAID’s offices wasn’t immediately returned.

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    “It’s important that the people of Philadelphia can independently verify how much money the Host Committee has actually raised because the city should not be left holding the bag, as happened after Pope Francis’ visit, and find out after the fact,” Slaughter said today.“

    At the rally earlier today, activists accused the DNC host committee of hiding their finances so the public doesn’t learn where their loyalties really lie.

    “They are very ingrained in the machine of lobbyists-influencing-policy,” activist Xelba Gutierrez said.

    Activist Alex Nagle agreed, saying: “We want to call attention to the corrupting role of money in politics.”

     

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