- Unbeliebable: White House turns Bieber petition response into immigration screed
- Obama signs law denying Iran ambassador’s visa, but says law is ‘advisory’
- Mich. judge to laughing convicted killer: ‘I hope you die in prison’
- Man charged in Kansas City-area highway shootings
- Keystone XL pipeline still on hold after State Dept. decision
- Fla. man charged with killing 16-month-old son to play Xbox undisturbed
- Drones from the deep: Pentagon develops ocean-floor attack robots
- Michigan mayor slaps back atheists’ try to erect ‘reason station’ at city hall
- PHILLIPS: Where is the conservative establishment?
- 7.5-magnitude earthquake shakes southern Mexico
EXCLUSIVE: Democratic donors rewarded with W.H. perks
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.
Many guests at the White House not only had fundraising connections, but also have personal friendships with the president, Mr. Obama’s aides said.
“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.
• The White House’s response: White House touts ethics in rewards for fundraisers
“This administration has across the board set the toughest ethics standards in history. As a result, we have reduced special-interest influence over the policymaking process to promote merit-based decision-making,” he added.
But veteran Washington observers say the Obama-era perks still carry shades of the so-called “donor maintenance” programs of past administrations, when Bill Clinton rewarded fundraisers with White House coffees and overnight stays in the Lincoln Bedroom and George W. Bush invited “Pioneers” to Camp David or his Texas ranch.
And the donor access raises questions about the fervor of Mr. Obama’s stated commitment to clean up what he once called the “muddy waters” of Washington, where political cash is exchanged for access, ethics experts said.
“Once you start trading money for access, you set up a situation where donors eventually say, ‘Well, actually I have another favor to ask,’” said Scott Thomas, a former Democratic appointee to the Federal Election Commission.
• GOP lawmakers call for donor-perks probe
• CBS: Is the White House for sale?
• Tainted donations vex political campaigns
• Campaign-giving restriction is nullified
• Justices hit campaign fund curb
• Obama, GOP hopefuls hunt cash, friends
About the Author
TWT Video Picks
Women losing coverage under Obamacare, too
- Scalia to students on high taxes: At a certain point, 'perhaps you should revolt'
- Former Ranger breaks silence on Pat Tillman death: I may have killed him
- Feds approve powdered alcohol; 'Palcohol' available later this year
- Special Forces' suicide rates hit record levels casualties of 'hard combat'
- Justice at last: 'Evil woman' outed for grabbing girl's game ball
- Army goes to war with National Guard, seizes Apache attack helicopters
- Inside China: Marine's comment on islands draws sharp Chinese response
- EDITORIAL: More Lerner smoking-gun emails at IRS
- U.S. Navy to turn seawater into jet fuel
- EDITORIAL: Mark Warner running scared?
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.