Dozens of President Obama’s top re-election campaign financiers – “bundlers” who give the legal maximum and get their deep-pocket friends to do the same — have received special White House access, appointments to advisory boards and presidential commissions, and other perks over the past two years, according to a new report from the Center for Public Integrity.
At least 68 of Obama’s 351 bundlers or their spouses have received official posts in the administration, including 49 appointed since January 2010, the CPI investigation found.
The positions include seats on the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, which advises him on economic policy, the Holocaust Memorial Council, the White House Council on Community Solutions and the largely ceremonial Kennedy Center board.
Mark Gallogy, co-founder of investment firm Centerbridge Partners, Penny Prtizker, president and CEO of Pritzker Realty Group, and Robert Wolf, chairman of UBS Americas, who all sit on the Jobs Council, have raised as much as $2.7 million for Obama in 2008 and 2012 combined, according to estimates provided by the Obama campaign.
Since 2009, more than 250 bundlers received invitations to state dinners, policy briefings and other special White House events open only to exclusive crowds, the Center found. At least 30 Obama bundlers have ties to companies that benefit from lucrative government contracts.
While doling out perks for campaign donors is not unprecedented, the practice has continued in spite of Obama’s 2007 pledge to change the way business is done in Washington, D.C.
“The cynics, the lobbyists, the special interests who’ve turned our government into a game, only they can afford to play,” said then-Sen. Obama in his February 2007 announcement speech. “They get the access while you get to write a letter. … The time for that kind of politics is over.”
In June, CPI reported that 184 of 556 Obama bundlers from the 2008 presidential campaign had joined the administration in some role, with nearly 80 percent of the biggest-dollar bundlers (those netting $500,000 or more) receiving “key administration posts.”
White House spokesman Eric Schultz defended the access and roles provided to campaign donors, insisting they had been extended based on merit, not cash.
“The people in these posts have sterling academic credentials, years of public service and private sector experience that make them eminently qualified for the positions to which they were appointed,” Schultz wrote in an email. “Being a donor does not get you a job in this administration, nor does it preclude you from getting one.”
The Obama campaign also noted that it was the only campaign to voluntarily release the names of all its bundlers and estimates of how much cash they’d raised. No Republican presidential candidate had done the same, breaking with a precedent set by George W. Bush and continued by John McCain.