Boehner dodges on criticism of Benghazi fundraising effort

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is not calling on the House Republican campaign arm to stop raising money off the Benghazi select committee he is appointing, despite a plea from the new chairman of that panel, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).

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Democrats have assailed the National Republican Congressional Committee for sending out a fundraising email on the Benghazi panel, and the money pitch could give them cover to boycott an investigation they have already denounced as politically motivated.

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Gowdy has also called out the NRCC on the grounds that the GOP should not be politicizing an inquiry into the deaths of four Americans in a terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2012.

But Boehner deflected three separate questions from reporters on Thursday at his weekly press conference asking whether he wants the NRCC to stop its fundraising efforts related to the Benghazi probe.

“Our focus is on getting the answers to those families who lost their loved ones, period,” Boehner said, repeating the response twice more to follow-up questions.

In a statement Thursday, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), called the NRCC’s pitch “despicable.”

“There has been bipartisan outrage at the callous actions of the NRCC, and for good reason,” he said. “Fundraising off the Benghazi tragedy is despicable and insulting and has no place in the national conversation. Speaker Boehner and Chairman [Greg] Walden should immediately take down their BenghaziWatchdogs.com website and stop insulting the memory of the brave Americans who were lost there.”

Israel and other senior Democrats are urging the party to boycott the Benghazi panel, but Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has not announced whether she intends to appoint members.

Pelosi has protested the ratio of seven Republicans to five Democrats on the panel, calling for an even split between the parties. But Boehner defended that decision as “eminently fair,” pointing out that a select committee on global warming that Pelosi created as Speaker in 2007 had nine Democrats and six Republicans.

Boehner said he spoke to Pelosi on Wednesday to make clear that he intends for the Benghazi committee to be a serious investigation and not a political exercise, but there was no indication the two leaders had come to any agreement.

The House is expected to formally pass a resolution creating the committee later Thursday, although Boehner said he is not ready to name the other Republican members.