Children's Charity Drops Convention Fund-Raisers

A children's charity backed by House Majority Leader Tom Delay (search) is abandoning planned fund-raising events during the Republican National Convention (search), citing New York prices rather than a political controversy.

Congressional watchdog groups have questioned whether Celebrations for Children (search), as a tax-exempt charity, could legally hold events to raise money from major Republican donors during the convention.

Celebrations for Children spokesman Gary Lewi's announcement on Tuesday only cited the cost, saying, "New York around the time of the Republican Convention is too expensive."

Lewi said one venue for a planned party, near the Madison Square Garden convention site, would have cost $25,000 to $30,000 for the facility plus the catering cost.

With expenses that high, the charity would have excessive administrative costs, he said, adding: "It's far simpler just to reschedule."

Two watchdog groups asked the Internal Revenue Service (search) to deny a tax exemption to the charity. Several groups criticized the House ethics committee for failing to investigate DeLay's activities on behalf of the organization, which helps abused and neglected children.

Tax-exempt charities are prohibited under IRS rules from participating in partisan political activities.

Lewi, in response to a reporter's question, declined to comment on whether the complaints as well as the expense prompted the cancellation. Aides for DeLay, R-Texas, had no comment.

The Republicans weren't alone in planning and canceling charity events at this year's presidential nominating conventions.

Earlier this month, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (search), D-Ark., canceled a charity concert for major donors at the Democratic National Convention in Boston. The concert was to benefit a children's cancer charity, CureSearch.

The cancellation followed a watchdog group's complaint about the event with the Senate's ethics committee.

A brochure for the concert offered a "Bay Access Pass" for $100,000, a donation that would have provided eight backstage passes, a photo with a major performer and 25 VIP lounge passes.

The concert, held at a nightclub, was to honor seven Southern Democratic Senators including John Breaux of Louisiana, John Edwards of North Carolina, Bob Graham of Florida, Ernest Hollings of South Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Bill Nelson of Florida and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.

Lewi's statement on DeLay's charity said: "The mission of Celebrations for Children is to fund community programs that do what the government has failed to do — hear the cries of children and respond. CfC has high standards for giving maximum assistance to abused and neglected children and keeping costs to a minimum.

"It has become clear New York around the time of the Republican Convention is too expensive a venue, therefore CfC will not hold the events and instead will pursue other less expensive locations later this year."

DeLay had been soliciting donations between $10,000 and $500,000 for three separate fund-raising events for the organization. Those who contributed could get tickets to a party with a national musical act, entry to a yacht cruise, a private dinner with DeLay, tickets to Broadway plays or a chance to watch President Bush's convention speech from a luxury box.

The charity said the goal was for 75 percent of the money raised by the convention events to go to the children's charity.

DeLay has raised millions for a foster care facility in Houston. Also, he and his wife have been foster parents.