The White House has made their most adamant denial yet of the charge made by the New York Times that Organizing for Action was planning to reward $500,000 donors with access to President Obama for quarterly meetings. Over the weekend the Times reported, “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.”
Monday, Jay Carney had a disastrous performance at his press briefing reading from carefully scripted notes regarding the report and the relationship between OFA and the White House. Rather than continue to answer reporters’ questions on the subject, he hurried away from the podium while queries were being shouted at his back.
Today on “Mornings on the Mall” on WMAL-FM in Washington DC, Brian Wilson and I interviewed Jamie Smith, Deputy Press Secretary for the White House. When the topic turned to the Times report, Smith said the report was “inaccurate.” (6:15 mark of the interview here:)
“Jay said at the podium that it’s not accurate.”
“My sense of his answer was that the story is not accurate.”
My “sense of his answer” was quite different. Here is Carney’s complete answer to a question specifically about the NY Times story relating to special access to the president for $500,000 donors:
OFA, which you are asking about, is an independent organization that, as reported in the press, will engage in advocacy and grassroots mobilization activities around public policy issues. It will not be engaged in political campaign-related activities. It has been organized to rally support of the president’s policy agenda but is a separate organization. Administration officials routinely interact with outside advocacy organizations and this has been true in prior administrations.
On the broader issue of money in politics generally, the president has been very clear that we should be doing more to reduce the role of money in politics. The president and Democrats on the Hill have backed, and back, the DISCLOSE Act that would close loopholes and bring more transparency to the system, but it was blocked by Republicans.
President Obama has also outlined additional concrete steps Congress should take to eliminate the corrosive influence of money in Washington, like holding Congress to the same conflict of interest standards as the executive branch and prohibiting lobbyists from bundling and bundlers from lobbying.
The fact is, there are a variety of rules governing interactions between administration officials and outside groups, and administration officials follow those rules. White House and administration officials will not be raising money for Organizing for Action, and while they may appear at appropriate OFA events in their official capacities, they will not be raising money.
Nowhere in Carney’s carefully worded statement does he claim that the Times story is inaccurate.
Smith’s answer today, after being pressed several times on the specifics as reported in the Times, was a flat denial. “That is not accurate.”
This means, clearly, that the White House is accusing the Times of being inaccurate.
I reached out to Nick Confessore, reporter for the New York Times who penned the original report. I let him know about the White House’s denial and he told me, “I stand by the story.”
Either the White House and OFA are lying, or Confessore has a lot of explaining to do. Either way, it should be interesting to see if other members of the media pick up on a story which reveals such raw hypocrisy and corruption that even Bill Clinton’s guests in the Lincoln Bedroom would be ashamed.