Sen. Barack Obama held a private session with a group of about two dozen Iranian-American donors shortly before a fundraiser this month in California after one of the participants said the Obama campaign would hold such a forum if local Iranian-Americans were able to raise $250,000.
The forum -- which was not on Obama's public schedule and was closed to the press -- took place shortly before a fundraiser at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach, Calif., on July 13. That was less than a week before Obama's trip to the Middle East, where the U.S. relationship with Iran is a critical issue.
Obama spoke for about 15 minutes, according to the Obama campaign. He did not take questions, and did not stray substantially from his standard stump speech about the need to engage with Iran and the rest of the world in new manner, according to one attendee.
While such private meetings with well-heeled donors are not out of the ordinary, at least one fundraising pitch for the event was unusual.
A businessman contacted by the campaign to help raise money suggested that special access to the candidate would only be granted if a fundraising threshold was met -- making it sound like the kind of pay-to-play event that is frowned upon by watchdog groups and generally avoided by campaigns.
"The Obama campaign has promised to have a private meeting with Iranian Americans if we as a group can raise $250,000 for this coming Sunday's event," Manouch Moshayedi, a prominent Iranian-American businessman in Orange County, Calif., wrote in an e-mail distributed to potential donors July 9, according to a copy of the message obtained by ABC News.
"I am asking for your help in making this private meeting happen," he added. "If we are able to succeed, we will inform all of the Iranians who have signed up for this event to gather in a different room either before or after the general meeting to privately meet with Senator Obama."
Shortly after the e-mail was distributed, the Obama fundraiser who enlisted Moshayedi's help, Hassan Nemazee, contacted Moshayedi to tell him he got some key details wrong: $250,000 was the target for him to help raise among Iranian-Americans in his area, but Obama was poised to address the group regardless of whether they achieved it.
"When that came to my attention, that got pulled back," Nemazee, an Iranian-American investment banker who was formerly a top fundraiser to Sen. Hillary Clinton, told ABC. "He individually sent an e-mail out where he misunderstood the nature of the task, and misunderstood what would occur."
Nemazee added that he would not characterize the event as a "meeting," since Obama delivered a standard short speech but did not have any discussions with the participants.
Moshayedi told ABC News on Friday that he realized even before Nemazee contacted him that he had incorrectly described the circumstances surrounding the promised event. He said he called the "11 or 12" friends he had sent the message to in order to inform them of his error.
He said Iranian-Americans wound up raising only between $180,000 and $220,000 for the event; Obama, of course, still addressed the group.
"There was no discussion by the campaign [about] 'if you do this, we do that,'" said Moshayedi, the CEO of the Santa Ana, Calif., high-tech firm STEC Inc.