(CNSNews.com) – The White House asserted access to President Barack Obama is not for sale, after Organizing For Action – a non-profit political group that grew out of the campaign – indicated that donations of $500,000 to OFA would produce an audience with the president.
“The White House sets the president’s schedule,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday. “There is no price to meet with the president. Organizations have fundraising. They raise money, and this one has committed to disclosing its fundraising activities, but I would refer you to them for more on that.”
The New York Times first reported last month that “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.”
OFA is run by Obama’s former campaign manager Jim Messina. The group’s website is myBarackObama.com, the same as the campaign website.
This prompted even the liberal leaning government watchdog Common Cause to express opposition.
“If President Obama is serious about his often-expressed desire to rein in big money in politics, he should shut down Organizing for Action and disavow any plan to schedule regular meetings with its major donors,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, in a statement.
“Access to the President should never be for sale. With its reported promise of quarterly presidential meetings for donors and ‘bundlers’ who raise $500,000, Organizing For Action apparently intends to extend and deepen the pay-to-play Washington culture that Barack Obama came to prominence pledging to end,” Edgar said.
During the press briefing Monday, a reporter asked Carney, “Can you give us any idea if the president thinks that’s a good idea? Is he concerned about the perception out there? Are you trying to push back on the idea that you can get access for $500,000?”
Carney answered that he believed he has addressed the matter.
“Any notion that there is a price for meeting with the president is simply wrong,” Carney said. “I would send specific questions on how they do their fundraising to the organization. It is worth noting that they are going beyond what is required by disclosing donors and not accepting any funds from lobbyists.
“The bottom line is that this is a separate organization as we’ve noted, the existence of which is perfectly appropriate, and the White House will engage with it consistent with how we engage with whole host of other outside constituencies,” Carney added.
The reporter followed, “People could still give money to this group as long as it’s not directly attached to--”
Carney interrupted, “The White House sets the president’s schedule. There is no price to meet with the president. Organizations have fundraising. They raise money, and this one has committed to disclosing its fundraising activities, but I would refer you to them for more on that.”