Democratic Donors Buy White House Perks
The Obama administration appears to be peddling access to the iconic White House by rewarding big ticket donors with lavish receptions and private meetings. St. Paddy's Day saw the fountains on the north and south lawns of the White House lawns dyed green to please the "paying" guests. Privileges not accorded to Joe or Jane America, are within easy reach for those with enough money.
During his first nine months in office, President Obama has quietly rewarded scores of top Democratic donors with VIP access to the White House, private briefings with administration advisers and invitations to important speeches and town-hall meetings.
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, according to internal Democratic National Committee documents obtained by The Washington Times.
One top donor described in an interview with The Times being given a birthday visit to the Oval Office. Another was allowed use of a White House-complex bowling alley for his family. Bundlers closest to the president were invited to watch a movie in the red-walled theater in the basement of the presidential mansion.
Mr. Obama invited his top New York bundler, UBS Americas CEO Robert Wolf, to golf with him during the president's Martha's Vineyard vacation in August. At least 39 donors and fundraisers also were treated to a lavish White House reception on St. Patrick's Day, where the fountains on the North and South Lawns were dyed green, photos and video reviewed by The Times and CBS News also show.
Presidential aides said there has been no systematic effort to use the White House complex to aid fundraising, though they acknowledge the DNC has paid for some events at the presidential mansion.
"Contributing does not guarantee a ticket to the White House, nor does it prohibit the contributor from visiting," said Dan Pfeiffer, deputy White House communications director.
UBS recently settled a long-running dispute with U.S. tax authorities, under which UBS agreed to hand over details of thousands of customers.
On his first day in office, Obama spoke and said, "The old rules said that if there was a defensible argument for not disclosing something to the American people, then it should not be disclosed. That era is now over."
Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said at the time, "You know there's a new sheriff in town." We had meeting after meeting with Obama's transition team, and I told them, in my dream world, Obama would get up there on Inauguration Day and say, 'Transparency will be the watchword of this administration,'" Dalglish said. "I'm speechless. I am dreaming, right?"
Transparency? Openness? "defensible argument"?
New sheriff or not, the much condemned practice of selling access lives on.
Meanwhile, RNC Chairman Michael Steele said that the White House had effectively become a "full-service resort" during Obama's tenure, likening the alleged access to the benefits former President Bill Clinton had offered to some friends and top donors during his time in office.
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