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Republicans shouldn't raise money off Benghazi: U.S. lawmaker

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The new head of a congressional panel investigating the 2012 attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, criticized on Wednesday some Republicans' use of the deadly incident to raise campaign funds.

During an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program, Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina was asked whether he would appeal to his fellow Republicans to stop such fundraising efforts.

"Yes, and I will cite myself as an example. I have never sought to raise a single penny on the backs of four murdered Americans," said Gowdy, the newly appointed chairman of the special House of Representatives committee.

The September 11, 2012, attack resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and another diplomat. The next day, an attack on another U.S. facility in Benghazi killed two guards.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which seeks

to elect Republicans to the House, showcases Benghazi-related fundraising appeals on its website.

"Stand with House Republicans as we continue to hold Democrats accountable for the truth of what happened in Benghazi," one appeal states. "Help fight liberals by donating today."

Another features a photo of Gowdy, calling him the "Chief Benghazi Watchdog."

"Join Rep. Gowdy and demand answers for the Benghazi attack!" it reads, adding: "What really happened?"

The NRCC gave no indication it would stop the fundraising appeals.

"The Obama administration has not been honest with the American people with regards to Benghazi," said NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek. She added: "If Nancy Pelosi becomes speaker, the American people will never know the truth. Our goal is to hold Democrats in Congress accountable who continue to try to sweep this controversy under the rug."

Republican-led House committees have been investigating the attack since 2012. Now, Republicans are creating a special committee to look into the matter, despite Democrats' insistence that the violence in Libya at the U.S. compound has been thoroughly probed.

At a brief news conference on Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner said it was "time for us to bring this together into one place and to focus our effort."

Boehner added that the investigation, contrary to Democrats' allegations, "is not going to be a circus. This is a serious investigation."

White House spokesman Josh Earnest, speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One as they traveled with President Barack Obama to Arkansas and California, said: "I think that the fact that the National Republican Congressional Committee is raising money off the creation of this committee is a pretty good indication of the political motivation that's at work here."

He added that the Obama administration had produced "extensive materials to support a wide range of other investigations that have already been conducted."

Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state when the attack occurred and has been criticized by Republicans for her handling of the incident, told a forum in New York: "There are a lot of reasons why despite all of the hearings, all of the information that has been provided, some choose not to be satisfied and choose to continue to move forward.

"That's their choice and I do not believe there is any reason for it to continue in this way, but they get to call the shots in the Congress," Clinton said in comments televised on U.S. media.

Clinton is considered the Democratic front-runner if she enters the race for president in 2016.

(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton and Peter Cooney; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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