"They have a policy of encouraging ineligible people to help them raise money," said Tony Podesta, a top Democratic lobbyist who is soliciting contributions from interested clients. "I don't take it personally."
In addition, the Charlotte host committee set up a separate fund that is accepting unlimited sums from corporations. That committee, called New American City, is covering administrative costs and welcome parties for the media and delegates. Although donors won't get convention passes, they could still get prominent exposure.
Convention Chief Executive Steve Kerrigan and Jim Rogers, chief executive of Duke Energy and co-chairman of the host committee, met with Democratic fundraisers and lobbyists on Dec. 15 at Washington's posh Jefferson Hotel to lay out the ways corporations and lobbyists could help raise money, according to sources familiar with the briefing. The meeting was first reported by Bloomberg News.
The approach irritated some who attended, who said that the organizers still want the help of lobbyists even while claiming they are not involved.
Convention officials said the meeting was an effort to educate people about the new rules, not to recruit lobbyists as bundlers.
It is unclear how the restrictions are affecting fundraising. Charlotte officials refuse to reveal how much they have brought in, saying only that they are on track.
But several Democrats involved in helping the effort said the rules had made it hard for organizers, particularly because executives of publicly traded companies aren't eager to personally give $100,000.
Some party strategists said it might have been unrealistic to try to finance the convention through small donors.
"There is no history of these conventions not being dependent on money from all kinds of corporate entities," said Democratic consultant Bill Carrick. "They've always been involved — there's no other donor base for it."