- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Five months after President Obama’s made-for-media convention in Charlotte, N.C., the host committee for the three-day Democratic bash still has not paid off an unprecedented $10 million loan secured by Duke Energy, and there is no way of knowing whether it will ever be paid back.

Government watchdog groups, which once lauded Mr. Obama’s pledge to run the most transparent government in history, say the loan raises serious conflict-of-interest issues and shows that the president has abandoned his commitment to disclosure.

“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. “It’s clear the administration is hypocritical.”

The Charlotte host committee is refusing to provide details about the terms of the loan, how much has been paid off or the deadline for repayment.

Because no other convention committee in history has taken out a similar loan, no laws force Mr. Obama to publicly disclose it to the Federal Election Commission or any other agency, the watchdogs say.

The only FEC report available from the host committee dates back to October and shows an outstanding $8.7 million in debts from loans. Since then, the host committee has closed up shop and is not required to make any more FEC reports.

Mr. Obama could direct the host committee to produce the information voluntarily, but there is no indication he has any intention of doing so.

“We have to ensure going forward that we have far stricter disclosure laws associated with loans to conventions, if months can go by and we have no idea if the loan was paid off or not,” Mr. Slocum said.

When The Washington Times contacted Dan Murrey, a surgeon in Charlotte who was chairman of the convention host committee, he said the loan was a line of credit with two banks — Bank of America and Mechanics & Farmers Bank, with headquarters in Charlotte.

“We are still finishing up some collections and disbursements related to the convention, and the account is still open,” Mr. Murrey wrote in an email response.

He did not address questions about the terms of the loan, how much had been paid off, whether the host committee must make monthly payments and the deadline for repayment. A follow-up email restating the questions went unanswered.

Duke Energy spokesman David Scanzoni stressed that his company served only as the loan guarantor and wouldn’t disclose which banks had made the loan or the repayment terms.

“I can’t comment on who the institutions were,” he said, referring the questions to Dr. Murrey.

The White House also did not respond to a request for comment.

The host committee struggled for more than a year to raise money — and ultimately amassed $24.1 million, short of an already revised goal of $31.1 million. The original target was $36.6 million.

Story Continues →