Oh, By the Way, Obama is Selling Access to the White House

Guy Benson
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Posted: May 19, 2016 4:25 PM
Oh, By the Way, Obama is Selling Access to the White House

This story from The Hill, based on a new report from a transparency-minded organization, falls more into the "friendly reminder" category than the "bombshell revelation" column. You may recall that following President Obama's re-election in 2012, his campaign apparatus was transformed into a supposedly "independent," non-partisan organization devoted to advancing his second term agenda.  The notion that Obama for America could rebrand itself as 'Organizing for Action' and receive 501(c)4 tax-free status as a nonprofit -- especially in light of the IRS targeting scandal -- should be preposterous on its face, yet it's reality.  This "outside" group operates BarackObama.com and the @BarackObama twitter handle.  It also declared its explicit intention to literally sell access to the White House and Obama himself.  Flashback to 2013:

Next month, Organizing for Action will hold a “founders summit” at a hotel near the White House, where donors paying $50,000 each will mingle with Mr. Obama’s former campaign manager, Jim Messina, and Mr. Carson, who previously led the White House Office of Public Engagement. Giving or raising $500,000 or more puts donors on a national advisory board for Mr. Obama’s group and the privilege of attending quarterly meetings with the president, along with other meetings at the White House. Moreover, the new cash demands on Mr. Obama’s top donors and bundlers come as many of them are angling for appointments to administration jobs or ambassadorships.

The scheme flies in the face of the high-minded rhetoric with which Obama launched his first presidential campaign in 2017, and makes a complete joke out of his alleged opposition to the influence of money in politics -- a cynical canard that has been exposed over and over again. Good Government Barack has always been a fraud. He's just another self-interested, say-anything pol for whom the ends of power accrual justify the means, including shunting aside even oft-stated "principles." Given that OFA was more or less advertising quarterly meetings with the President of the United States at the White House for the low, low price of just $500,000 per year, how is any of this even remotely shocking?

More than a dozen of the 39 named donors to the Obama Foundation have visited the White House for exclusive gatherings and events, according to a new report from the transparency group MapLight. The foundation was set up in 2014 to fund Obama’s presidential library in Chicago and surrounding endowment programs and needs to raise up to $1 billion to reach its goals. The Obama Foundation has raised roughly $7.3 million since its inception, according to tax forms, and 15 of the 39 named donors have received invitations to small meetings with the president. In fact, every donor whose family or foundation had given more than $100,000 met with Obama at the White House, according to the review by MapLight, a non-profit research organization that tracks money in politics. The group looked at White House visitor records, the foundation’s website and its tax returns. Donors who have met with Obama include the actress Julia Roberts and her cinematographer husband Danny Moder; private equity executive Mark Gallogly and his wife Lise Strickler; and Tom Campion, the founder of clothing retailer Zumiez, and his wife Sonia. They all attended a private gathering at the White House in January, MapLight found. The visit went unnoticed because it was not listed on Obama’s public schedule

In response to this report, the White House has insulted Americans' intelligence, insisting that voters refuse to see what's directly in front of their noses. Donald Trump is hardly the only political gaslighter on the scene these days -- via IJ's Kate Bennett:

Despite the findings in the Maplight report, White House deputy press secretary Jennifer Friedman, in a statement, said the Obama White House has staunchly opposed the idea of trading money for access: “The president has been committed since his first day in office to reducing the corrosive influence of money in politics, starting when he signed an executive order instituting unprecedented reforms, and doing more since then to close the revolving door of special interest influence than any president before him," [she said].

No, he hasn't. He's talked a lot about it, then discarded that cheap talk whenever it's benefitted him, abandoning transparency pledges along the way, to boot. How appropriate that his cozy private meetings with six-figure Obama Foundation donors were off-the-books. But he's definitely not fundraising for the project, against his word. The White House tells us so: "“The president has made a commitment that he will not be raising money for the foundation while he’s still in office,” Josh Earnest said yesterday. I'll leave you with Earnest facing skeptical questions from the press corps about this little arrangement, followed by Jay Carney fleeing challenges over the OFA affair: