Democrats excoriated Bank of America last fall over a proposed $5 monthly debit card fee, with one even taking to the Senate floor to urge people to pull out their money.
But just a week and a half earlier, party leaders organizing the Democratic National Convention quietly deposited $17.7 million into the bank.
This year party leaders announced deposits totaling $4.5 million at two community banks and a credit union, touting their commitment to small and minority-owned lenders. Yet they're doing much more business with Bank of America: The share of convention money passing without fanfare through the nation's second-largest lender could reach $65 million.
Large companies headquartered in a convention host city often lend high-profile support, financial and otherwise. But at a time of public antipathy toward banks, neither Democratic leaders nor Bank of America have much to gain in publicizing the bank's involvement in its hometown convention.
Local Bank of America executives have said little about what involvement the bank or its employees will have during the DNC. Party leaders, too, have sought to downplay corporate America's role.
Much of it has to do with President Barack Obama's decision to eschew corporate contributions for an event typically awash in them.
But public anger at the financial industry and the president's own criticism of Wall Street have put Bank of America in an even more awkward position, even though Obama will be renominated in a football stadium named for the bank.
In the latest example, a Democratic leader caused a stir this month when Politico reported that she called it "Panthers Stadium" in an email rather than "Bank of America Stadium." The convention committee said it wasn't an intentional slight to the bank.
Instead of taking a leading role, Bank of America has made several quiet contributions to convention planning. A bank spokeswoman confirmed last week that the bank is donating money to the nonprofit fund the host committee is using to promote Charlotte, and Bank of America is underwriting two newsmaker gatherings organized by media companies.
As the convention nears, bad news about banks keeps unfolding - from the LIBOR rate-rigging scandal at Barclays to the mounting losses from bad bets at JPMorgan. And former Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill has called for the government to make banks separate their consumer and investment arms.
"Corporations like Bank of America have a pretty significant public relations problem with the country as a whole," said Peter Ubertaccio, a professor at Stonehill College in Massachusetts who studies political conventions. "It's a much more delicate balancing act this year than it may have been even four years ago."
Banks, including Bank of America, have a history of involvement in political conventions both Democratic and Republican.
For the 2004 convention in Boston, Bank of America donated $1.4 million to the host committee, Federal Election Commission documents show, and was one of five companies to be given Platinum Plus status.
Much of the money was committed by executives of FleetBoston, the company Bank of America acquired in late 2004. Fleet executives remain in the top ranks at Bank of America, including CEO Brian Moynihan, strategy officer Anne Finucane and director Charles Gifford.
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