- The Washington Times - Friday, July 22, 2011


President Obama is so obsessed with returning to the executive mansion that he may have forgotten to abide by campaign ethics rules. Last month, he made a video in a ground-floor room of the White House asking Democrats to pony up for a chance to win “dinner with Barack and Joe,” referring to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus sent Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. a letter on July 18 seeking an investigation. “If President Obama recorded the video in the Map Room, then it appears he has committed a crime under federal law,” he wrote. The relevant statute prohibits soliciting campaign donations in any “room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties.”

The White House claimed the taping took place in a permissible space and that Mr. Obama didn’t specifically ask for money. “This was wholly appropriate and routinely done in past administrations, as evidenced by an abundance of examples spanning the past three decades,” White House spokesman Eric Shultz told the Washington Times. “In fact, experts and lawyers have said publicly that all of what this administration is doing is above board.”

The issue is whether Mr. Obama violated federal law when he asked people to enter a raffle. The video was embedded in a campaign email which said: “Watch the president’s video, and then donate $5 or more to be automatically entered for the chance to have dinner with him.”

The White House keeps coming up with new excuses. “They pivot so much, it makes you dizzy,” said RNC Spokesman Sean Spicer. “First they claimed the taping was in the residence. Then they change their story that the Map Room is part of the residence. Now their excuse is that the president isn’t fundraising, but just inviting donors to dinner.”

The president is allowed to fundraise in the third-floor residence portion of the White House, but the Map Room hardly qualifies as private space. It’s where Mr. Obama just last week met with the Dalai Lama and where he was sworn into office a second time.

The Obama campaign has not announced how much loot the dinner raffle raised. A White House spokesman said that there was a disclaimer on the now defunct website that said, “no purchase, payment or contribution necessary to win. Contributing will not improve chances of winning.” It’s doubtful anyone saw that small print.

The American people still reel at the memory of President Clinton selling the Lincoln bedroom to the highest bidder. Using the White House as a fundraising tool is unseemly, no matter what gimmicks are used to disguise the grab for cash. Mr. Obama ought to give as much attention to the country’s present needs as he does to his personal needs in 2012.

Emily Miller is a senior editor for the Opinion pages at The Washington Times.

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