Entries in Charlotte (8)


Biden Says Middle Class ‘Has Been Buried Last Four Years’

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- Vice President Joe Biden, criticizing Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan for a plan he said will raise taxes on the middle class, instead stepped on his campaign’s message by saying the middle class has been “buried” over the last four years -- the time President Obama has been in office.

“This is deadly earnest. How they can justify- - how they can justify raising taxes on the middle class that has been buried the last four years? How in the Lord’s name can they justify raising their taxes?  We’ve seen this movie before,” Biden said to a crowd of 1,000 at the Fillmore Charlotte.

The Republican National Committee and the Romney campaign quickly pounced on a statement. The RNC circulated the clip and the Romney campaign called Biden’s comments a “stunning admission.”

“Vice President Biden made a stunning admission today and we couldn’t agree more: the middle class has been ‘buried’ under the last four years of this President’s policies. Under President Obama, the middle class has suffered from crushing unemployment, rising prices and falling incomes. They can’t afford to be ‘buried’ for four more years. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will take our nation in a new direction and are offering exactly what hardworking families need -- real reforms for a real recovery,” Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said in a statement.

An Obama campaign official said Biden has said throughout his time on the campaign trail that the Bush administration was responsible for the burdens placed on the middle class.

“As the Vice President has been saying all year and again in his remarks today, the middle class was punished by the failed Bush policies that crashed our economy -- and a vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan is a return to those failed policies.  With more than five million private-sector jobs created since 2010, the Vice President and President Obama will continue to help the middle class recover and move the nation forward,” the campaign official said.

Nearly one month after the Democratic National Convention, Biden returned to Charlotte for the first time and tried to draw a contrast between Obama and Romney’s positions on tax cuts for the middle class.  Biden swiped at the GOP ticket for not being on the same message when it comes to middle-class tax cuts, pointing to Romney’s statement at a rally in Ohio last week where he said, “I admit this, [President Obama] has one thing he did not do in his first four years -- he’s said he’s going to do in the next four years, which is to raise taxes.”

“Then they come along and they say well we raised taxes on the middle class. How many times you hear Obama and Biden raise taxes on the middle class? Well even Romney had what we Catholics say is an epiphany. Romney come out and said the following. He said, ‘They have not raised taxes on the middle class.’ But apparently Paul Ryan has not gotten the memo,” Biden said to a crowd of over a thousand at the Fillmore Charlotte.  “I’m serious. They know it. The President didn’t raise taxes on the middle class. Yet, turn on the ads. We cut taxes for everyone in the middle class! Three thousand and six hundred dollars.”

Biden, who was working off a teleprompter, struggled with pinpointing a vote Ryan made, stumbling when he tried to explain how it played out.

“They still say we really urgently want to deal with it now.  Basic, I think my opponent said something like, you know, I don’t know, he said something about he has regrets or I don’t know, something he wished he hadn’t voted that way.  OK? I don’t want to, I don’t want to mis-- I don’t want the press saying I misquoted him, but … he went back and said I did that but I kind of wish I didn’t, whatever,” Biden said.

Ryan has said before that he regrets certain votes on spending that he made when Republicans dominated Congress and President Bush was in office.

Biden is on his sixth trip to the battleground state of North Carolina and encouraged supporters to spread the word about voter registration, which ends Oct. 12.

“By the way, before I get started, I want to remind y’all of what you already know, but it’s worth saying again and again: the deadline to register in North Carolina is Oct. 12.  And if you’re already registered or folks that, if you’re not registered yet, there’s folks at the door literally with clipboards, our team out there, who are willing to help you get that process going,” Biden said.  “The reason we’re going to win North Carolina is we’re going to have the best ground game you’ve ever seen in this state.”

At the top of his speech, Biden apologized to the crowd for the hour delay in the event.  Air Force Two was forced to circle in the air for more than 30 minutes before landing due to bad weather.

“As the traveling press can tell you, there are some queasy stomachs on our plane,” Biden said at the start of the event. “We got off late because of weather and we got here and we had to make several passes before we landed.  That’s why we’re late, I promise you we take you seriously. Blame it on the weather.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Democrats Trash Lobbyists in Speeches, But Party with Their Cash

ABC News(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- Inside the Democratic convention hall in Charlotte, N.C., this week, lobbyists and special interests took a rhetorical beating from the party that has tried to carry the mantle of Washington reform.

"If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other voices will fill the void: lobbyists and special interests; the people with the $10 million checks who are trying to buy this election and those who are making it harder for you to vote," President Obama said as he accepted his party's nomination Thursday night.

But outside the hall, lobbyists and their friends in Congress were the toast of Charlotte, just as they had been in Tampa, Fla., during the Republican convention.

At the Mint Museum, a global art museum with a modern flair, top Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta received a steady stream of guests -- senior Democratic senators, ranking members of the House, and the congressional staffers and insiders who play key roles in the legislative process.

"We're happy to entertain our friends and guests," said Podesta, whose clients include BP Oil, Wal-Mart and dozens of other corporations with major issues in Washington.

When Charlotte was named as the convention host city, the Democratic National Committee said they wanted a different kind of political event -- one that would be in keeping with Obama's vision for diminishing the role of special interests and corporate lobbyists.

When he announced his White House bid in 2007, Obama complained that lobbyists "think they own this government.  But we're here today to take it back.  The time for that politics is over.  It's time to turn the page."

In the convention hall, lobbyists were enemy number one.

"American families didn't have an army of lobbyists on our side," said the Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, to lusty applause, as she described the fight to create a new consumer financial protection agency.  "And when the lobbyists were closing in for the kill, Barack Obama squared his shoulders, planted his feet, and stood firm.  And that's how we won."

But by the time the 2012 convention launched this week, the goal of a convention free from lobbyist money had been significantly watered down.  One of the major sponsors donating to an entity formed to help pay for the festivities was McGuireWoods LLP, a firm registered to lobby for Duke Energy, the NBA, and others.

Lobbyists were an even greater presence outside the official convention events -- at restaurants and other party venues around town.  Lobbyists for electric utilities rented out the historic Duke Mansion in Charlotte's oldest residential neighborhood, and entertained Democratic governors with a string quartet and open bar.  Casualty insurance lobbyists held court at a nightclub called Tilt, where drinks flowed and music pounded.

There is a reason the lobbyists have blanketed Charlotte, even in the face of the harsh rhetoric aimed in their direction, said Jack Abramoff, the one-time super-lobbyist who became an advocate for reform after he served a prison term for bribery.

"It gives a lobbyist an opportunity to be displayed in a setting of political importance for the members of Congress, and for the others who will be, perhaps, in the administration," Abramoff told ABC News.  "And I think the more the lobbyists are seen in the context of important events and hobnobbing with people who are important, the more their stock goes up."

While many of the events were closed to the media, Podesta was one of the few members of his trade who didn't feel the need to hide his efforts in Charlotte.  ABC News spotted five U.S. senators at one of his daytime events, among them: Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy.

Podesta said he was happy not to be hit up for money to support the convention host committee.

"It enables us to be able to do wonderful parties like this instead of spending money on fencing and security so we thank the president for his direction of our activities more to events like this," he said.

Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly of Virginia said he did not feel compelled to defend his decision to attend Podesta's event.

"It's still a free country and people can network with people of their choosing," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Democrats Highlight Convention Partly Open to Public

Alex Wong/Getty Images(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- August in Denver saw one of the most iconic scenes of the summer of 2008: A young senator marching out into the roar of a jam-packed stadium, accepting his party's nomination as almost 80,000 people looked on.

President Obama's speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention was historic -- not only because he was the first black nominee for any major party, but also since he gave the only open-air stadium acceptance speech at a convention since John F. Kennedy in 1960.

This year, Democrats are again looking to make an impression, hosting the first convention that both opens and closes with free events for the public.

"We are empowering Americans to participate and including more people than ever before," said Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Convention Committee.

Democrats' convention festivities kicked off Labor Day with CarolinaFest 2012, a free, public street fair in downtown Charlotte, N.C.  In January, organizers announced they were cutting official convention business down -- from four days to three -- to make room for the festival.

And the convention's climax comes on Thursday, when Obama accepts the party's presidential nod.  His speech is slated for Bank of America Stadium, rain or shine, with tickets available to the public through a "community credential" process.

"There's not a similar effort happening in the other city hosting the other convention," said Suzi Emmerling, spokesperson for the Charlotte in 2012 Convention Host Committee, which handles convention fundraising.  She said the street fair and speech will open the convention to "literally tens of thousands of people" who otherwise wouldn't be able to get involved.

In Tampa, Fla., the only members of the public who attended the four-day Republican National Convention were the 10,000 GOP volunteers already in place, according to convention officials.

"A lot of that is based on security concerns," said Ken Jones, president and CEO of the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee. "Given the nature and the security of the event, it's very difficult to do truly wide-open events."

Instead of inviting the public in, Republicans relied on their convention app and a social media push, "Convention Without Walls," for people to follow along with GOP happenings.

Some political observers say the choice to include the public or not in convention activities is simply a matter of preference.

"I don't think it says Republicans are closed to the public and the Democrats are more open to it," said John Geer, chair of the political science department at Vanderbilt University.

Conventions are almost a "four-day political advertisement," he said, and it's important for each party to get its message out as effectively as possible.  

For Obama, a public event to replicate his iconic 2008 acceptance speech might be just the ticket to boost post-convention ratings and re-energize supporters.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Plenty of Big Names But No Surprises at DNC

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- As of now, there are no surprise speakers scheduled to talk to an empty chair at the Democratic National Convention that kicks off Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C.

Rather, Democrats hope to stay on message as they prepare to renominate President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

On Tuesday, the convention will hear from first lady Michelle Obama and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, actor Kal Penn and former President Jimmy Carter via video.

Wednesday's highlights include former President Bill Clinton formally nominating Obama for reelection, U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and various Democratic governors and Cabinet officials.

Thursday's speakers include Caroline Kennedy, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, actress Eva Longoria and, of course, acceptance speeches by Obama and Biden.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Delegate Mom Fights to Open Democratic Convention Floor to Kids

Hemera/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- When House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was voted in as speaker of the House in 2008, dozens of children, including her five grandchildren, stood on the House floor to witness the event. But when Barack Obama is officially voted in as his party’s presidential nominee at the Democratic National Convention next week, there will be no young children on the convention floor, which is open only to credentialed state delegates.

One mom, Susie Shannon, a California delegate from Los Angeles, is fighting the DNC rules so her four-year-old daughter Gracie can accompany her onto the convention floor.

“It’s either allow children on the floor or provide child care,” Shannon said. "You can’t expect that every single woman who is a delegate can leave their child at home in another city for week and go to the convention.”

Neither the Democratic National Convention nor the Republican National Convention provide any type of child care services, although the DNC does include a list of nearby child care centers in its delegate packet.

RNC spokesman James Davis said children are allowed on the floor of the GOP convention if they have the proper credentials, which “in theory” he said could be given to a 4-year-old such as Shannon’s daughter.

The DNC said it has no plans to add child care services and justified keeping kids out of the delegate seating area for security and capacity reasons.

“Democratic conventions have historically required credentials for all individuals to access the convention hall to ensure the safety and security of all attending,” DNC Committee spokeswoman Joanne Peters said in a statement to ABC News.

While kids are banned from the convention floor, they are welcomed on the floor of the House of Representatives, where members of Congress can bring children under the age of 13 while the House is in session.

Four Southern California chapters of the National Organization for Women teamed up with women’s rights icon Gloria Steinem to condemn the DNC’s policy and call for the party to allow delegates to bring their children with them into the convention voting space.

“Women are the key to a Democratic victory, and sometimes, children are the key to women,” Steinem said in a statement. “It’s both right and smart for the Democratic Convention to behave as if children exist.”

While Steinem is critical of the Democratic Party this week, she was commending its leader for supporting women’s rights.

“He understands that women are absolutely full human beings,” Steinem said of Obama in a video for his campaign.

Shannon, who is on the executive board of the California Democratic Party, said she has brought her daughter along to every state convention for the past four years with no problems. She criticized the “hypocrisy” of the Democratic Party because while it courts women voters on one hand, it is “not providing for the needs of many women” at the convention.

“It’s sort of like a check your baby at the door kind of policy,” Shannon said. “If they want the mom vote and they want moms to participate and they want to say they are speaking for moms, they need to accommodate for them.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Secret 'Menu' Details Perks for Big Democratic Donors

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Those seeking invites to the most lavish receptions at the 2012 Democratic National Convention -- "gold ticket" access to "dialogues," and private breakfast briefings with party luminaries -- can expect a hefty price of admission.

A list of high-end convention packages circulated by the Charlotte in 2012 Convention Host Committee, and obtained by ABC News, shows that those and other perks are being offered to donors who raise $1 million or donate $100,000 to the convention's nonprofit planning arm.

The cash-for-access formula has been a longtime staple of national political conventions, and though Democrats told ABC News they have tried to shift the focus to access for grassroots supporters this year, critics say the menu of perks for donors is a reminder that those giving big dollars can still expect special treatment.

"We pride ourselves on being a country of equality, and this kind of arrangement subverts that," said Kathy Kiely, managing editor of the Sunlight Foundation reporting group.  "If you have big money to give, you get a lot more access."

The packages for the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, N.C., are tiered.  Top fundraisers and donors are given "premier credentials" that access luxury suites and the convention floor.  They also grant donors hotel locations with close proximity to party leadership events, and special access to a special hospitality house near the convention floor.

Someone who raises $1 million tops the list, while top flight packages are also spelled out for those who donate $100,000 directly, or raise more than $650,000 (Trustee Package), $500,000 (Piedmont Package), $250,000 (Dogwood Package) and on down.

Democrats say they are trying to move away from the cash for access tradition. This year, the party's contract with the convention host committee included the first ever restrictions on who can donate, and on how much they can give.  The Host Committee announced it would not take corporate or lobbyist money, and that it would limit individual giving to no more than $100,000.

"We've gone further than any convention in history to find ways to provide greater access for the public," said Democratic National Convention Committee spokeswoman Joanne Peters.

Dan Murrey, the executive director of the Host Committee said in a statement to ABC News that his group is "raising money for this convention in a way that has never been done before."

The committee hired a full time grass roots finance director, and tried to be creative in enticing smaller donors to contribute to the event -- even sponsoring a barbecue sauce competition, a poster contest, and a chance for anyone donating $3 to win a trip to the convention with the airfare and hotel provided.

With just weeks left to go, Murrey said the host committee had raised money from nearly 65 times more individuals than did the Denver committee.

"Our grassroots fundraising has exceeded expectations in terms of broadening the donor base and engaging more people in the effort," he said.

Melanie Roussell, a DNC spokeswoman, added that she believes the Charlotte convention "will demonstrate what we've been arguing all along -- that the president and Democrats are on the side of working families and committed to strengthening the economy from the middle class out."

For those promised access to special events in exchange for large donations, the Democrats host committee has left unspoken just how much access, and to whom, their money will buy.  While the convention packages dangle opportunities to attend "dialogues" and "breakfast briefings," there is no indication noted about the identities of the dignitaries who will attend.

The money raised by the committee is not intended to be spent on the president or Democratic members of congress, but to help cover the roughly $36 million budget to throw the event.  Similarly, the Tampa Bay Host Committee notes on its donor website that the more than $50 million it plans to raise for the August convention "will be used to alleviate the burdens of local government and promote the Tampa Bay area."

If their track record holds, Republicans will be offering even pricier perks for those attending the GOP Convention in Tampa, Fla.  Four years ago, the Republican convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul provided donors of $5 million or more a private dinner and a separate golf outing with the Republican leadership.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Move the Democratic Convention From Charlotte? Not Likely

Marc Piscotty for Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Internet-based protest movement calling for Democrats to move their summer convention from North Carolina appears to be a lost cause.

“The convention is staying in Charlotte,” Democratic National Convention Committee spokeswoman Joanne Peters said an email.

North Carolina voters Tuesday approved a ballot referendum known as Amendment One, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions in the Tar Heel state, becoming the 30th state to adopt such a measure. Gay Marriage USA, an advocacy group based in New York, has since launched a petition calling on the DNCC to “move the convention out of North Carolina.”

“On May 8th, the people of North Carolina voted in support of Amendment One, a constitutional amendment that discriminates against LGBT people, couples & their families,” reads the petition posted on “In protest, the Democratic National Convention Committee should MOVE its convention (September 2012) to a state that upholds values of equality & liberty, and which treats ALL citizens equally.”

The petition has so far gathered more than 28,000 signatures.

The Democrats’ reasoning extends beyond general-election strategy: North Carolina will be a crucial swing state in the fall and moving it so close to the Labor Day start date is impractical.  Conventions are huge undertakings, costing parties millions of dollars and taking months of planning.

“It’s completely impractical to move the convention; there’s absolutely no way you could do it,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “Too much planning has gone into it. You couldn’t find another place where you could make all the arrangements at this time.  Practically speaking, it’s at total nonstarter.”

In addition to the financial losses incurred by the convention committee and the Democratic party, the city of Charlotte would be dealt a big financial blow if the convention were moved, as the event will likely have a huge, positive, economic impact on the city. In 2008, the Democratic National Convention brought an estimated economic benefit of $226 million to the Denver area, according to a report released by then Denver Mayor, now Colorado Governor, John Hickenlooper.

Furthermore, a majority of voters in Mecklenburg County, where Charlotte is located, voted against the ban on same-sex marriage. About 54 percent of the vote in Mecklenburg was against Amendment One, while about 46 percent of the voting population supported it, according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Democrats Pick Charlotte for 2012 Convention

Photo Courtesy - JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- The 2012 Democratic National Convention will be held during the week of Sept. 3 at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., the DNC announced Tuesday.

First lady Michelle Obama announced the pick in an email to “Organizing for America” supporters, noting that Charlotte is a city marked by “southern charm, warm hospitality, and an 'up by the bootstraps’” mentality.

During the 2008 presidential election, then-Senator Obama fought hard as the party’s nominee to flip the state from red to blue.  Mr. Obama won the state narrowly in the general election 50 percent to John McCain’s 49 percent.

In 2012 the president will likely make an equally heavy push targeting the state in the general election. The choice of Charlotte to hold the party’s convention is just another sign the party hopes to keep the state squarely blue in 2012.

The city of Charlotte beat St. Louis, Minneapolis, and Cleveland.

The Republican Party has set their own convention for Tampa, Fla., the week before the Democrats have their convention.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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