The Republican chair of the new House select committee tasked with investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya accused Democrats on Sunday of having “selective amnesia” when it comes to political fundraising off of tragedies.
Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina criticized Democrats for raising money in the wake of past tragedies, including the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and Hurricane Katrina.
“For me, I will not raise money on Benghazi, just like I never raised money using crime victims when I was a prosecutor,” Gowdy said on Fox News Sunday. “And I’ve asked my colleagues to follow suit. But it would be helpful ... if our colleagues on the other side of the aisle did not have selective amnesia when it comes to what’s appropriate to raise money off of and what is not.”
The issue of fundraising on Benghazi divided Republicans before the House of Representatives even voted to formally establish the investigative panel.
Gowdy spoke out against it Wednesday on msnbc’s Morning Joe, saying some things “ought to be above politics.”
But the National Republican Congressional Committee was already on the case. The group sent out a fundraising pitch earlier -- moments before Gowdy's appearance -- with a link to a donations page.
Democrats pounced on the fundraising plea, arguing that it provides further proof that the GOP’s primary motivation in establishing the committee is political.
“Fundraising off the Benghazi tragedy is despicable and insulting and has no place in the national conversation,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel said in a statement.
California Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra on Sunday said the committee appeared to be a “smokescreen” for the GOP to raise funds.
“It’s very distressing,” he said on Fox News Sunday.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner named seven Republicans to the select committee earlier this week. Joining Gowdy are Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Peter Roskam of Illinois, Martha Roby of Alabama, Susan Brooks of Indiana, Mike Pompeo of Kansas, and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia.
There are five slots open committee slots for Democrats, but it remains to be seen whether any will participate. House Minority LeaderNancy Pelosi blasted the committee as “fundamentally unfair” in a letter to Boehner on Friday, adding, “for the sake of the families of the brave Americans who died in this tragedy, this process must not be politicized.”
Becerra said Sunday that Democrats would participate in the investigation if ground rules are agreed upon and it’s an “fair, open and balanced process.”
New York Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler told msnbc’s Steve Kornacki on Sunday that Democrats should participate.
“As much of a kangaroo court as it is, even in a kangaroo court, it’s good to have a defense attorney. And you can’t cede the battlefield,” Nadler said.
Republicans’ intense focus on the 2012 attacks, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, serves a political purpose for the party. It’s likely the investigation will stretch into the 2014 midterm election season, when Republicans are hoping to gain control of the Senate. It also gives the party a public forum to keep heat on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is seen as Democrats’ top presidential pick come 2016.
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz on CNN’s State of the Union weighed in stating, “The bottom line here is that the Republicans have clearly lost the ability, because we’ve had such a precipitous drop among Republicans, even, in their fervor for repealing the Affordable Care Act that they are clearly doing this to drive their turnout and gin up their base.”