June 15, 2011 — -- President Obama launched his campaign in 2007 promising a change in the way business is done in Washington, D.C., but today a report from the Center for Public Integrity says that when it comes to major campaign donors scoring plum administration positions, it's business as usual.
The report says that 184 out of 556 2008 Obama campaign "bundlers," donors who agreed to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for a campaign -- or their spouses -- joined the administration in some role.
But the percentages are much higher for the big-dollar bundlers. Nearly "80 percent of those who collected more than $500,000 for Obama took 'key administration posts,' as defined by the White House," the report said.
The center pointed out that candidate Obama suggested that big moneyed interests would not have as prominent a role in D.C. during his administration.
"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."
The White House today pushed back on the report, saying it's "hardly a story" and insisting that donations play no role in awarding the plum jobs.
"The people who got those positions got them because of their credentials," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. "They also happen to be donors in some cases. ... Being a supporter does not qualify you for a job or guarantee you a job, but it does not disqualify you."
It's essentially the same explanation the Bush administration gave.
"We make no distinctions about people on the basis of whether they've given or not," said White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer in January 2001.
Tom Perrelli raised $500,000 for Obama in 2008 and is now associate attorney general. Charles Rivkin did the same and is now ambassador to France. So did Donald H. Gips, ambassador to South Africa, and John Roos, ambassador to Japan.
Carney insisted that all bundlers given those positions were qualified, but earlier this year, the ambassador to Luxembourg, Cynthia Stroum -- who also was a half-million-dollar Obama bundler -- resigned right before a State Department report was issued calling her "aggressive, bullying, hostile and intimidating."
Fred Schulte, one of the authors of the report, said that there is a difference between the Bush administration and the Obama administration.
"We did look at the administration of George Bush, which was widely criticized for appointing donors to these kinds of posts, and they had about the same number in four years that the Obama administration has had in two years," Schulte said.
According to the American Foreign Service Association, President Obama has nominated more "political" appointees for ambassadorships versus foreign service candidates than any president in at least the past 20 years. A full 36.2 percent of Obama's ambassadors are political, while just more than 30 percent of Bush's were political. Under former President Clinton, 27.82 percent of such appointments were political, while under President George H.W. Bush, 30.3 percent were political.