A common complaint about George W. Bush’s second term is that he was “insulated” and cut off from the outside world, and increasingly so from what he perceived to be a hostile press. This alleged isolation caused many liberal commentators to begin to derisively refer to President Bush as a “Bubble Boy.” It has taken considerably longer for the press to openly criticize Obama for the same tendencies given their largely shared ideological heritage but finally the Press is starting to carp openly about Obama’s refusal to allow them basic access to Presidential events.
The specific issue that has raised the ire of the White House Correspondents’ Association is Obama’s refusal to allow members of the press access to two high dollar Super PAC fundraisers that occurred this week on the west coast.
Tuesday, the reporters and photographers traveling with the president on Air Force One and in his motorcade were left on the gravel path not even within sight of former Costco CEO Jim Sinegal’s house in the Seattle suburbs where Obama sat for a Senate Majority PAC fundraiser with a $25,000 entrance fee.
Wednesday morning, when he met with big donors for the House Majority PAC at the Four Seasons hotel in downtown San Francisco, they weren’t even told what room or floor he was on.
As noted in the article, there are at least two major issues that make Obama’s participation in these events a matter of public interest and therefore open to at least some of the press. The first is that in 2010, Obama took the nearly unprecedented step of blasting a sitting Supreme Court for their Citizens United decision that paved the way effectively for the very existence of these Super PACs. In 2012, Obama campaigned heavily against them and sought to create active distance between the Super PACs that were supporting him and himself. The fact that he is now personally appearing at fundraisers for these PACs with the wealthiest 1% of the 1% is a newsworthy item.
Second, and more importantly, Obama himself is on record opposing these Super PACs specifically for the allegedly corrupting nature of unfettered donations from large moneyed donors. Since he has apparently had a change of heart on this issue, it is a matter of public interest for the people to know what, specifically, the sitting President is doing or saying in order to encourage donations. Especially given Obama’s stated second-term agenda of acting without Congress wherever possible, the promises he makes in terms of his unilateral actions at these events is something that the public has a right to know. There is the additional fact that depending on what he says, promises, or even asks for in terms of donations, campaign finance laws and regulations potentially come into play (which is especially relevant for an administration that criminally prosecuted Dinesh D’Souza for illegally raising less than the total amount paid by a single attendee of these events). Even Politico has noted that the press has begun to express mounting outrage at the secrecy surrounding these events:
“We think these fundraisers ought to be open to at least some scrutiny, because the president’s participation in them is fundamentally public in nature,” said Christi Parsons, the new president of the White House Correspondents’ Association. “Denying access to him in that setting undermines the public’s ability to independently monitor and see what its government is doing. It’s of special concern as these events and the donors they attract become more influential in the political process.”
Despite constant complaints from the press corps and promises from White House officials, access to the president continues to be limited. The constantly repeated line that they’re running the “most transparent administration in history” tends to prompt snickers. Halfway through Obama’s West Coast swing, it’s tipping toward outrage.
But Obama has attended three super PAC events in the past week: one in New York last Thursday and the two on the West Coast.
How many people Obama met with was a secret. How much they paid to get in was a secret. Finding out who the people were? Forget it. Even a general account of what the president said to them? Not from this White House.
Schultz said Obama stands by his opposition to the Citizens United decision and support of the DISCLOSE Act and even a constitutional amendment to limit the flow of money into politics.
But asked if participation in these events undercuts these principles, Schultz said no. Obama’s going to keep traveling the country to raise money for Democrats in the midterms as part of the commitment the White House made to the party earlier this year.
I hope you all can understand – President Obama still stands against the corrupting influence of money in politics and still supports transparency in the political process; however, right now something more important is at stake: the election of Democrats.
What is Obama hiding at these big money fundraising events? What is he promising the crowd in return for donations? What unilateral actions is he threatening to take? Given the fact that Obama remains the current sitting President of the United States, the public would seem to have a right to the answers to these questions. Unfortunately for them, President Obama disagrees.