Charlotte firms not planning major presence at political conventions

Charlotte firms not planning major presence at political conventions

CHARLOTTE, NC (Rick Rothacker and Ely Portillo/ The Charlotte Observer)- In 2012, Charlotte companies played a big role when their hometown hosted the Democratic National Convention.

This year, their presence will be less noticeable, although none of the companies cited concerns about the candidates up for nomination at the Republican and Democratic gatherings.

Nationally, some companies that have sponsored the Republican convention in the past are dropping or scaling back their sponsorship of this year's event in Cleveland, Bloomberg News has reported, with nominee Donald Trump expected to spur controversy. The GOP convention starts Monday.

Charlotte-based Duke Energy isn't sponsoring either convention, but spokesman Thomas Williams said the company "may have a few individuals attend some events" at the RNC and DNC.

That's what Duke has typically done in years past, Williams said. When the DNC was held in Charlotte four years ago, the company played a major role as a hometown host. Then CEO Jim Rogers co-chaired the host committee, and Duke loaned the Democrats $10 million. The energy company eventually forgave much of the loan, which the DNC didn't have to pay back.

Williams called 2012 a "major exception" to Duke's normal participation.

In 2012, Wells Fargo, which has a big Charlotte presence, gave $500,000 to the host committee in Charlotte. This year, it's giving an unspecified amount to the nonpartisan host committee for the July 25-28 Democratic convention in Philadelphia, another big market for the bank. The gathering will be held at the city's Wells Fargo Center arena.

"We are supporting the city of Philadelphia host committee given our significant community bank and team member presence," a spokeswoman said. "Our decisions around the host committees were determined late last year before either party determined the nominees. This is consistent with our past practices."

The bank isn't contributing to the Republican convention in Cleveland, where it doesn't have branches, and isn't sending executives to either event.

In 2012, Bank of America contributed $5 million to the Charlotte host committee, and it sponsored briefings held each morning by the Politico news organization.

A Bank of America spokesman told Bloomberg News that it typically supports a convention if it has significant links to the community, and that Cleveland and Philadelphia "are both cities where we have a healthy community presence." A spokesman could not be reached for further comment.

Among other Fortune 500 companies in Charlotte, home improvement retailer Lowe's Cos. doesn't "typically participate in conventions," said spokeswoman Megan Lewis. The company isn't sending anyone to the DNC or RNC.

Charlotte-based steel firm Nucor also isn't sending anyone, spokeswoman Katherine Miller said. That's typical for the company, which doesn't participate in the quadrennial gatherings.

"Even when (the DNC) was here we didn't have a presence," said Miller. "This year isn't anything out of the ordinary."

The company's former CEO and current chairman emeritus, Dan DiMicco, is a trade adviser to Trump, but he told the Observer his schedule prevents him from being there.