In the wake of reports today that President Obama has used the White House both to grant access to special large donors and friends like Hilary Rosen, many media figures have suggested that this isn’t anything rare – it’s business as usual, and shouldn’t be considered out of bounds.
But there is one major politician who would disagree: Barack Obama, circa 1996.
When Obama was running for Illinois State Senate in 1996, he gave an interview to Joe Frolik of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. In it, he called the Clinton campaign “disturbing to someone who cares about certain issues.” But he was most disturbed, he said, by the “realization that politics is a business … As oppose to a mission.”
In fact, Obama stated, Americans felt cut out of the process:
The convention's for sale, right. You got these $10,000-a-plate dinners and Golden Circles Clubs. I think when the average voter looks at that, they rightly feel they're locked out of the process. They can't attend a $10,000 breakfast and they know that those who can are going to get the kind of access they can't imagine.
Obama then recognized that handing out access for big cash cut average Americans out of the process – and that was at a bargain-basement price of just $10,000. Now, he pursues that strategy on a regular basis – only thanks to inflation, only those who pay $35,800 can get in the front door.