WASHINGTON — More than half of President Barack Obama's most generous campaign fundraisers have visited the White House at least once for meetings with top advisers, holiday parties or state dinners, according to a review by the Associated Press. Scores made multiple visits.
The invitations for fundraisers to visit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — a legal and established practice by incumbent presidents — came despite Obama's past criticisms of Washington's pay-for-access privileges and mark a reversal from early in the president's term when donors complained that Obama was keeping them at arm's length.
The AP's review compared more than 470 of Obama's most important financial supporters against logs of 2 million visitors to the White House since mid-2009. It found that at least 250 of Obama's major fundraisers, as well as a handful of donors to a "super" political committee supporting his campaign were cleared to attend social gatherings or one-on-one meetings with senior advisers.
As a presidential candidate running against Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama's campaign once sharply noted that Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, had invited David Geffen — whom Obama's campaign said had raised $18 million for the Clintons — to sleep in the Lincoln Bedroom. The AP found no evidence of Obama's own donors sleeping overnight in the White House, but timestamps showing arrivals and departures on the government's logs are incomplete for more than 1.7 million records. This month, the White House extended invitations to more than 30 of the president's top fundraisers to an elaborate state dinner, where they mingled with celebrities and dined with foreign leaders on the South Lawn of the White House.
Other purposes for visits included one-on-one meetings with top West Wing staffers, such as former chief of staff Pete Rouse and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. Those donors include so-called "bundlers" — supporters who have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars each for Obama's re-election.