Ever since the Republican leadership appointed Rep. Trey Gowdy to head up a special committee on the Benghazi attacks, the former prosecutor has been arguing with the National Republican Congressional Committee's plans to fundraise off of it.
Gowdy is a true believer in his cause, and he's reportedly kind of uncomfortable with the idea that his committee will be used politically to help the Republican Party get a lot of cash during a midterm election year. On Wednesday, the congressman told MSNBC that "I have never sought to raise a single penny on the backs of four murdered Americans," just a half an hour after the NRCC sent out an email doing just that, as the Huffington Post noticed. "A new Select Committee headed by South Carolina Congressman Trey Gowdy and appointed with special powers by Speaker John Boehner will begin a thorough investigation of what happened that night," the email read. It then invited readers to become a "benghazi watchdog" by donating to the NRCC. The email linked to the following page:
Gowdy then called on the NRCC to stop fundraising off of his work, saying that "I cannot and will not raise money on Benghazi," adding to CNN that, "I also advise my colleagues to follow suit."
This is an admirable, human response to the awkwardness of fundraising off of tragedy. But we're a little surprised that Gowdy didn't see it coming enough to draw this line in the sand. Aside from the fact that his big show committee is impeccably timed to help Republican efforts to get an even stronger grip on Congress, Republicans have apparently been campaigning and fundraising off of the Benghazi attacks since November of 2012, or two months after the attacks.
The ad that broke the Benghazi campaigning ice comes from Sen. Lindsey Graham. It briefly appeared on his site, until a handful of liberal blogs noticed it:
—In January, Sen. Ted Cruz sent an email following Obama's State of the Union, noting that the president "failed to mention Benghazi, the IRS, or the NSA." Cruz then asked for donations.
—In April, John Bolton's PAC sent a fundraising email asking users to fill out a "Benghazi accountability survey." It asked readers to make a "generous" donation after filling out the survey.
— A May 2 blog post from the National Republican Senate Committee reads, "Americans deserve the truth about Benghazi and it's clear Democrats will not give it to them. Donate today and elect a Republican Senate majority."
— Allen West has been all over the Benghazi fundraising email game. According to Media Matters, the Fox News contributor sent emails in January and March asking for donations after invoking Benghazi. He sent another one on Wednesday for the Allen West Guardian Fund:
The NRSC's spokesperson Brad Dayspring told Politico that there's a difference between "discussing" and fundraising off of important issues, implying that their blog post was simply doing the former (even though it asked for donations): "Part of politics is fundraising. I think fundraising is a separate activity than calling attention to important issues...Benghazi is going to be a topic of discussion because it deserves answers, and I think it’s important for both candidates and elected officials to discuss it.”
In any case, congressional Democrats are already picking up on the tension here. On Thursday, Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings told MSNBC that the House Republicans "shouldn’t be raising money with regard to this matter.” Should or shouldn't, however, recent history tells us that Republicans can, and will.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.