By Justin Sink
The House Republican tasked with leading the new select committee on Benghazi said Wednesday that lawmakers shouldn't raise money off his investigation.
But Rep. Trey Gowdy's (R-S.C.) insistence that the subject "transcends politics" was undercut by a National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) website launched Tuesday imploring supporters to become a "Benghazi watchdog" by donating to the GOP's fundraising committee.
"Yes, and I will cite myself as an example," Gowdy said. "I have never sought to raise a single penny on the backs of four murdered Americans."
The South Carolina lawmaker went on to say that "even in a culture of hyper-partisanship," some things "ought to be above politics, like the murder of our four fellow Americans, and whether or not you can trust what any administration, Republican or Democrat, tells you in the aftermath of a tragedy."
Meanwhile, the NRCC launched BenghaziWatchdogs.com.
"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," an email announcing the site said, prompting supporters to visit a website and donate between $25 and $500.
Democrats have dismissed the committee as a political exercise, and on Wednesday, pounced on the NRCC fundraising request.
"The [Republican National Committee] admitted yesterday that this is all about base turnout and now the political arm of the Republican leadership that is launching the umpteenth 'investigation' into this is brazenly raising money off the issue," said Brad Woodhouse, the president of Americans United for Change, in a statement. "That anyone is taking this as anything more than a politically motivated, fundraising and base-ginning up replacement for birtherism is completely mindboggling."
White House spokesman Josh Earnest also argued the fundraising pitch underscored the political nature of the select committee.
“I think that tells you just about all you need to know when it comes to assessing the political motivations of those who are leading the effort to form this committee,” Earnest said.
And Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) commented: "It looks like the Republicans are more concerned about an email than they are about the four Americans who lost their lives."
Republicans have argued that the special panel was necessary after the revelation of an email from White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, who recommended then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice should “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”
The White House has maintained that Rhodes was merely prepping Rice to discuss protests across the Middle East, and not the Benghazi incident specifically.
But Republicans have said the document is evidence the White House was responsible for pushing the narrative that the violence grew from anger over an anti-Islam YouTube video in a bid to protect the president's bid for reelection.
"What else was being discussed other than Benghazi?" Gowdy said Wednesday. "Jay Carney has done a good job of explaining some of this evening away. That was not one of his better jobs."
— Mike Lillis contributed.