“This just looks bad,” says MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, and that’s an understatement. Todd worries that the White House is “ceding the moral high ground” by having Barack Obama’s presidential-campaign-turned-activist-network pledge to provide access to the President in exchange for big bucks, as the New York Times reported over the weekend:
Finally, The New York Times reported over the weekend that donors who contribute and raise $500,000 for President Obama’s Organizing for Action will get special access to the President. That’s right. They’re selling access to the President. The new group has an ambitious goal — to raise $50 million to convert the President’s re-election campaign into an advocacy network and they’re offering access. The New York Times says ‘giving or raising $500,000 or more puts donors on a national advisory board for Mr. Obama’s group and the privilege of attending quarterly meetings with the President along with other meetings at the White House.’
Excuse us? This just looks bad. It looks like the White House is selling access. The definition of how you define selling access. If you believe money has a stranglehold over the entire political system, this is ceding the moral high ground. And the President always has, from the moment he first announced his presidential bid in Springfield, six years ago, he stressed the need to curb the influence of special interests in Washington.
The NYT’s Nicholas Confessore reports on the latest version of renting out the Lincoln Bedroom:
But the rebooted campaign, known as Organizing for Action, has plunged the president and his aides into a campaign finance limbo with few clear rules, ample potential for influence-peddling, and no real precedent in national politics.
In private meetings and phone calls, Mr. Obama’s aides have made clear that the new organization will rely heavily on a small number of deep-pocketed donors, not unlike the “super PACs” whose influence on political campaigns Mr. Obama once deplored. …
But those contributions will also translate into access, according to donors courted by the president’s aides. Next month, Organizing for Action will hold a “founders summit” at a hotel near the White House, where donors paying $50,000 each will mingle with Mr. Obama’s former campaign manager, Jim Messina, and Mr. Carson, who previously led the White House Office of Public Engagement.
Giving or raising $500,000 or more puts donors on a national advisory board for Mr. Obama’s group and the privilege of attending quarterly meetings with the president, along with other meetings at the White House. Moreover, the new cash demands on Mr. Obama’s top donors and bundlers come as many of them are angling for appointments to administration jobs or ambassadorships.
“It just smells,” said Bob Edgar, the president of Common Cause, which advocates tighter regulation of campaign money. “The president is setting a very bad model setting up this organization.”
The only way this should surprise anyone is if they bought the idea that a Chicago Machine politician would ride into Washington to clean up that one-horse town. What looks bad is the shock, shock that ensues when Obama reveals himself to be every bit a product of that Chicago environment.