President Obama has gone on a three-day fundraising tour in the midst of crisis, which has drawn sharp criticism over White House priorities — especially since the Obamas will take a 15-day vacation in just a couple of weeks, too. The White House ducked the criticism but ended up encouraging even more of it from the press, which itlocked out of the events. Politico vented some steam at Obama in two pieces over the last two days:
Tuesday, the reporters and photographers traveling with the president on Air Force One and in his motorcade were left on the gravel path not even within sight of former Costco CEO Jim Sinegal’s house in the Seattle suburbs where Obama sat for a Senate Majority PAC fundraiser with a $25,000 entrance fee.
Wednesday morning, when he met with big donors for the House Majority PAC at the Four Seasons hotel in downtown San Francisco, they weren’t even told what room or floor he was on.
“We think these fundraisers ought to be open to at least some scrutiny, because the president’s participation in them is fundamentally public in nature,” said Christi Parsons, the new president of the White House Correspondents’ Association. “Denying access to him in that setting undermines the public’s ability to independently monitor and see what its government is doing. It’s of special concern as these events and the donors they attract become more influential in the political process.”
Despite constant complaints from the press corps and promises from White House officials, access to the president continues to be limited. The constantly repeated line that they’re running the “most transparent administration in history” tends to prompt snickers. Halfway through Obama’s West Coast swing, it’s tipping toward outrage.
The Most Transparent Administration Evah? Not so much:
What’s even more irksome for the press is that this approach to super PAC events is coming from a president who has publicly criticized the Citizens United decision and distances himself from the PAC that supports him.
“How many people Obama met with was a secret. How much they paid to get in was a secret. Finding out who the people were? Forget it. Even a general account of what the president said to them? Not from this White House.”
Perhaps this comes more from embarrassment than secrecy. The San Francisco Chronicle reported overnight that Obama and Democrats had to heavily discount the entry fee to get the place filled, and concludes that “donor fatigue” has set in — even in Nancy Pelosi’s political base:
President Obama hit the Bay Area for a fast cash-and-grab fundraising drive Wednesday, but there were signs that even in one of the nation’s most reliable Democratic ATMs, donor fatigue is setting in.
There was no listed price for tickets for Obama’s morning appearance at a roundtable in San Francisco for the House Majority PAC – the type of intimate gathering for which admission is usually $32,400 per person, the legal maximum. Some donors said tickets had been offered for a deep discount.
And in Los Altos Hills, the heart of Silicon Valley big money, the president’s appearance at the home of real estate mogul George Marcus drew an older crowd that was noteworthy for the absence of young angel investors, startup stars and tech leaders who have flocked to fundraisers Obama has held while paying 17 previous visits as president to the Bay Area.
Democratic donors who were invited to the San Francisco event, at the Four Seasons Hotel on Market Street, said they had initially been asked to donate as much as $25,000 to sit down with Obama. One who balked at the price said organizers had offered a cut-rate deal of as little as $5,000.
That wouldn’t be terribly surprising in other parts of the country, not for a President for whom a 42% job approval rating qualifies as the good news from a poll. The lack of enthusiasm in this particular part of the country should send up big warning flares for other Democrats, though, especially about the lack of younger entrepreneurs showing up for the fundraisers. Obama mobilized younger, tech-savvy donors in his two presidential campaigns, and without them Democrats will find it very difficult to maintain momentum in a demo that they cannot afford to have drop out in the midterms.
The 80% discount for dinners reflects not just donor fatigue, but as polling continues to show, Obama fatigue as well. Small wonder the White House would prefer to lock the press out of these events.