WASHINGTON, May 8 (UPI) -- A fundraising campaign from the National Republican Congressional Committee did little to deflect criticism that the GOP is leveraging the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi for political purposes.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., the newly appointed chair of a special select panel to investigate the Sept. 11, 2012 attack, touted the effort as one that "transcends politics" on Wednesday.
But moments after his comments, the NRCC sent out an email blast, urging supporters to donate to become a "Benghazi Watchdog."
Despite Gowdy's calls for the NRCC to abandon the campaign, the group isn't backing down. And House Speaker John Boehner, the de-facto leader of his party, made no indication he would encourage the NRCC to do so.
At his weekly press conference on Capitol Hill Thursday morning, Boehner repeatedly dodged questions about the disconnect between Gowdy's comments and the fundraising campaign.
Reporter: "Speaker Boehner, four Americans died in Benghazi, should the NRCC fundraise off of your efforts with the Select Committee?"
Boehner: "Our focus is on getting the answers to those families who lost their loved ones. Period."
Reporter: "But should the NRCC -- they're fundraising off of it right now. Is that -- ?"
Boehner: "Our focus -- our focus is getting the truth for these four families, and for the American people."
Second reporter: "But the campaign committee, which you are very involved in, is fundraising off of this. Why is that happening?"
Boehner: "Our focus is for getting the truth for the American people and these four families."
Democrats have also accused House leadership of stacking the committee rules against them, to which Boehner said he thought the rules were "eminently fair."
In the nearly 21 months since the attack, in which Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed at a CIA installation in Libya, investigations into the incident have frequently devolved into partisan squabbling.
Republicans accuse President Obama, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice of staging a cover-up to help Obama win re-election; Democrats say House Republicans have been trying to create a scandal out of what was simply a tragic event, and in particular, to tarnish Clinton ahead of the 2016 election.