Heavy donors to the Obama re-election effort have gained special access to the President, according to the New York Times today. Friends of Obama like Dwight and Antoinette C. Bush, who hosted a $17,900-per-plate fundraiser for the president in their home, are frequent visitors to the People’s House. They often bring along clients, too, who seek insider deals. On the day Antoinette Bush brought a top entertainment industry lobbyist to meet with White House officials, for example, she dropped a $35,800 check in the president’s re-election fund. Bush called this a “coincidence.”
As the Times reports, a review of White House visitor logs cross-tabbed with an index of campaign donations found that “those who donated the most to Mr. Obama and the Democratic Party since he started running for president were far more likely to visit the White House than others.” Three-quarters of those who had given over $100,000 to the president’s re-election effort have spent time at the White House.
Even more shocking is the timing:
Some of the donors had no previous record of giving to the president or his party, or of making donations of such magnitude, so their gifts, sometimes given in close proximity to meetings, raise questions about whether they came with expectations of access or were expressions of gratitude.
Insider dealings have, of course, long been a prominent element of the Obama agenda. His stimulus and bailout goodies for his union allies stand as a prominent example. But his willingness to host those who sign him checks – and to allow them to bring along friends without explicitly labeling such meetings “lobbying” – is deeply troubling.
Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI) is unabashed about such dealings, however. He personally signed a $35,800 check to Obama’s re-election fund while looking for administration support for one of his projects. “If you want to call it ‘quid pro quo,’ fine,” he told the Times. “At the end of the day, I want to make sure I do my part.”
$35,800 is the magic number for access. In late February, President Obama invited 25 of his closest friends – and by closest friends, he meant biggest donors – to the Jefferson Hotel near the White House. “Tickets,” read the invitation, “start at $35,800 for the night.” Will Ferrell has hosted a dinner in Hollywood for Obama. Cost: $35,800 per person. Same deal with Spike Lee. Same deal with Tyler Perry. What’s the magic of $35,800? It’s the maximum you’re allowed to donate. Which doesn’t stop Obama “friends” from getting their friends to donate to Obama in exchange for more access.
What about everyday Americans, who can’t afford to sign checks to the President for $35,800? They’re left out in the cold. There isn’t a 1 percent vs. 99 percent divide in this country. There’s a .000003 percent vs. the rest of us divide – those who can cut big checks to this president, and those who can’t.