Like Capt. Renault in "Casablanca," I am shocked, shocked to discover that access peddling is going on in the Obama White House. Perks for deep-pocketed donors? Presidential meetings for sale? The stale Chicago odor of pay-for-play wafting from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Knock me over with a feather.
Despite the president's claimed distaste for the campaign finance practice known as "bundling" (rounding up aggregate contributions from friends, business associates and employees), the House of Obama has been a campaign finance bundlers' paradise from Day One. A new report by Matthew Mosk of The Washington Times just confirms the gob-smackingly obvious: It's business as usual in the era of Hope and Change. O's wealthiest Democratic donors have received lavish receptions, golf outings, bowling dates and movie nights with Obama.
And internal Democratic National Committee documents acquired by the Times reveal that "high-dollar fundraisers have been promised access to senior White House officials in exchange for pledges to donate $30,400 personally or to bundle $300,000 in contributions ahead of the 2010 midterm elections." Yup, they're just haggling over the price.
Many Obama bundlers have secured slots on federal advisory panels and commissions. Still more have benefited from the time-honored patronage tradition of rewarding political benefactors with ambassadorships. Clinton did it. Bush did it. And despite all his fantastical, Balloon Boy-level rhetoric of bringing a "new politics" to Washington, Obama's done it, too.
His ambassador to London, Louis Susman, is a Chicago crony with no diplomatic experience who bundled between $200,000 and $500,000 for Team Obama and is known as "The Vacuum Cleaner" for his fundraising prowess. His ambassador to France, entertainment mogul Charlie Rivkin, headed up Obama's California fundraising operations, raking in $500,000 for the campaign and another $300,000 for the inaugural. His ambassador to Spain, Boston moneyman Alan Solomont, also bundled the same amounts for the campaign and inaugural.