Obama donors get White House visits

 

President Barack Obama is using privileged access to the White House to reward his most generous financial supporters.

Republican rivals Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum cannot match his move. More than 60 of Mr Obama's biggest campaign donors have visited more than once for meetings with top advisers, holiday parties or state dinners.

The invitations to visit the White House, which are a legal and established practice, came despite Mr 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 Mr Obama was keeping them at arm's length.

When Mr Obama was a presidential candidate running against Hillary Clinton, his campaign noted that she and her husband, President Bill Clinton, had invited David Geffen - whom Mr Obama's campaign said had raised 18 million dollars for the Clintons - to sleep in the Lincoln bedroom.

The Associated Press news agency compared more than 470 of Mr Obama's most important financial supporters against logs of two million visitors to the White House since mid-2009. It found that at least 250 of Mr Obama's major fundraisers and donors visited the White House at least once for events like dinners or one-on-one meetings with senior advisers.

Earlier this month, the White House invited more than 30 of the president's top fundraisers to an elaborate state dinner, where they mingled with celebrities and dined with foreign leaders.

Other visits included one-on-one meetings with top West Wing staff.

Those donors include so-called "bundlers" - supporters who have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece for Mr Obama's re-election.

Mr Obama's campaign has said it would begin encouraging supporters to donate to the "super" political action committee supporting Mr Obama, Priorities USA Action, to counterbalance the cash flowing to Republican super PACs. The decision drew rebukes from campaign finance watchdogs and Republicans who said Mr Obama had changed on his prior stance assailing super PAC money. He once assailed the groups as a "threat to democracy" on the grounds they corrode elections by permitting unlimited and effectively anonymous donations from billionaires and corporations.

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