Obomination: The DNC’s New Fundraising Headquarters at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Published Fri, Jul 29 2011 7:18 AM

The White House has been finding lots of ways to package everything Obama does as “unprecedented.”  But on June 17, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney reversed course to call a March 7 meeting with the 44th president “totally precedented.”  White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler has claimed that Obama’s behavior was “consistent with the practices of prior Administrations from both political parties.”  There’s a reason behind the complete reversal in terminology: Obama may have violated the law.

On March 7, the Democratic National Committee sponsored a meeting of two dozen Wall Street executives with President Obama in the Blue Room of the White House.  There’s only one problem: using the White House for fundraising purposes is illegal. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s claim that “[t]his was not a fundraiser” seems highly suspect. 

The Democratic National Committee was involved in multiple ways: the DNC invited the guests, paid the $68 tab, and  DNC leadership was in attendance. Including DNC executive director Patrick Gaspard, DNC treasurer Andy Tobias, and DNC fundraiser Brad Thompson.

The invited guests to the March 7 meeting all previously donated to Obama in 2007 or 2008.  They included former New Jersey Gov. and former Goldman Sachs CEO Jon Corzine former technology executive Bernard Schwartz and banking executive James Staley.  Also important is that the meeting was not listed on President Obama’s public schedule.

Press accounts offer further evidence that this event was of questionable legality.  Two attendees said the meeting was “clearly related to the campaign.” Obama also followed up the meeting with fundraising phone calls to the Wall Street executives.  A subsequent fundraising event orchestrated by the DNC was held in the New York home of Marc Lasry, CEO of Avenue Capital Group, who was in attendance at the March 7 meeting.  Donors who attended the meeting later gave $1,750,254 to Obama and Democratic congressional candidates.  Sixteen of the attendees raised $3.95 million to Obama’s 2012 election race.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has launched an investigation of this meeting.  Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.-49) sent a letter on July 11 to White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, requesting documents and communications between White House staff related to the March 7 event.  Issa then sent a letter on July 13 to DNC Executive Director Patrick Gaspard demanding all DNC records including the invitations and RSVPs.  Issa plans to hold Congressional hearings with “White House people testifying.” 

Richard Painter, President Bush’s ethics counsel in the White House, said, “It’s obvious that the DNC is going after these people for money, not just for their thoughts.”  Scott Coffina, ethics adviser to Bush, also weighed in on the ethical issues, by noting “It is unclear why the Democratic National Committee would have been used to organize a meeting to solicit advice on the economy.” 

Many liberal organizations also have expressed their concern about this meeting.  Meredith McGehee of the Campaign Legal Center questioned the DNC-sponsorship, because “[t]hat’s what raises the eyebrows.”  Mary Boyle, vice president of communications for Common Cause, said, “It looks bad. It’s disappointing that [Obama]… would host in the White House a meeting with past or current donors.”  Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 declared, “Meetings in the White House should not have any political fundraising overtones.”

How can a president have the audacity to let party operatives send invitations, as well as come and foot the bill for a meeting with donors at the White House?  Now, that’s “totally unprecedented.”

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# The Republican Lawyer Blog said on Friday, July 29, 2011 9:00 AM

The RNLA blog has a new weekly "Obomination" feature covering the ways President Obama has

# The Republican Lawyer Blog said on Friday, August 19, 2011 6:25 AM

This Wednesday, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa wrote a letter

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