As with past administrations, Democratic officials have made plain that the president views the access provided to close friends as something different from any sort of orchestrated program to reward political donors.
“Many of the people mentioned in this story have been friends and associates of the Obamas for decades — including college roommates and family friends whose relationships predate and are separate from the president’s career in public service,” Mr. Pfeiffer said.
Also as with previous administrations, however, it can often be difficult to distinguish between a president’s friends and his financial backers.
Several of those interviewed said they only met Mr. Obama by virtue of their efforts to assist his Senate and presidential campaigns.
“No, they’re not all friends,” said Lanny Davis, a Washington Times columnist and a Democratic lawyer who helped the Clintons respond to allegations about Lincoln Bedroom guests back in the 1990s. “They are supporters of the Democratic Party who are generous with their financial support, and without them we would not be able to compete against our Republican opponents.”