- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 30, 2014

President Obama has been largely invisible on the campaign trail this fall, but his disappearing act also has extended to party fundraisers, frequently held in secret and away from the view of the press.

Before stumping for Maine gubernatorial candidate Michael Michaud and other Democrats on Thursday evening, President Obama spoke at a closed-door “roundtable” for the Democratic National Committee, an event that essentially is a fundraiser with a different title.

Of the 64 fundraisers the president has headlined this year, about half have been entirely closed to the press, according to the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation, which argues Mr. Obama is failing in his vow to oversee an open, accessible White House.

“Every administration has done it. But I think this president, President Obama, he campaigned as a transformative candidate. He campaigned as someone who was going to bring more transparency and openness to the office of the presidency,” said Palmer Gibbs, a reporter with the Sunlight Foundation who tracks Mr. Obama’s fundraising efforts. “Transparency and openness they’ve become these things that people can promise, but a lot of times they don’t really act on them.”

Democratic Party fundraisers, or roundtables, follow one of two formats. At some events, Mr. Obama will deliver prepared remarks, which are open to print reporters traveling with the president. The White House also distributes transcripts of the remarks, but boots the media from the room before a question-and-answer session and does not produce any record of what was said during that part of the event.

The other type of fundraiser includes no prepared remarks, White House officials say, and can be better described as a lengthy Q-and-A with donors who pony up tens of thousands of dollars to attend.

SEE ALSO: Unpopular Obama sidelined during midterms

Thursday’s DNC event, for example, included about 25 supporters who each contributed at least $16,200, according to party officials.

The administration argues that those donors expect personal interaction with the president and a blunt exchange of thoughts and ideas. That dynamic, the White House says, would be lost if reporters were allowed into the room or if official transcripts were distributed afterwards.

“The fact of someone observing something necessarily changes what is actually being observed. And I think that’s at play in a dynamic like this, where you have a relatively small group of individuals who are seeking to have a conversation with the president of the United States,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said last week when pressed on the closed-door fundraisers.

“So what we have done is, we have structured this in a way that tries to balance your understandable interests in the pitch that the president makes to donors with the ability of donors to have a frank and candid conversation,” he said.

Closed-door fundraisers are just one example of what critics argue is an unacceptable level of secrecy and censorship from the Obama White House.

On Thursday, the administration revealed in a YouTube video that Mr. Obama held a meeting with top government officials Monday to discuss the response to Hurricane Sandy, which devastated parts of the East Coast in 2012.

The meeting was not part of the president’s official schedule.

In other instances, the White House has faced charges it scrubbed transcripts to remove potentially embarrassing information.

On Oct. 21, Mr. Obama attended a fundraiser in his hometown of Chicago and quipped that he still has years-old “unpaid bills” on the desk of his Windy City home.

The remark was not part of the White House’s official transcript of the president’s remarks. Mr. Earnest later claimed that a tape recorder malfunctioned during that part of speech, rendering the comment inaudible.

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