Investigative Report: Obama rewarded big Donors with jobs, commissions, stimulus money, government contracts, and more
The iWatch News. investigation found:
• Overall, 184 of 556, or about one-third, of Obama bundlers 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. More than half the ambassador nominees who were bundlers raised more than half a million.
• The big bundlers had broad access to the White House for meetings with top administration officials and glitzy social events. In all, campaign bundlers and their family members account for more than 3,000 White House meetings and visits. Half of them raised $200,000 or more.
• Some Obama bundlers have ties to companies that stand to gain financially from the president’s policy agenda, particularly in clean energy and telecommunications, and some already have done so. Level 3 Communications, for instance, snared $13.8 million in stimulus money. At least 18 other bundlers have ties to businesses poised to profit from government spending to promote clean energy, telecommunications and other key administration priorities.
Some bundlers trade on their campaign largesse for Obama to further career aspirations or business plans. Others, already successful, simply enjoy the exclusive stature bestowed by ties to the White House. Lena L. Kennedy, for instance, papers her Southern California consulting website with photographs of herself with Obama. She put out a press release announcing a June 13 fundraiser featuring Michelle Obama in Los Angeles; ticket prices ran from $1,000 to $10,000, the latter “allowing a photo opportunity and private time with the First Lady.” She declined to comment for this article.
“Some people just crave attention and some people just like getting the notoriety or attention of being a big player,” said Thomas M. McInerney , a San Francisco lawyer who bundled at least $100,000 for Obama. He said he didn’t ask for or get anything in return, though he knew others who did. “There was so much money this time, and there were so many people involved in raising the money, the number of people looking for something was exponentially more.”
Rewarding the donors
While the Obama administration tightened restrictions on hiring lobbyists, the deference it has shown major donors contradicts its claims to have changed business as usual in Washington, critics said.
Others said Obama strains credulity in claiming to bring reform to Washington while carrying on the patronage practices of past administrations. They added that many big donors aren’t shy about asking for specific favors, which gives candidates of both parties little choice but to keep patronage alive.
“Any president who says he’s going to change this is either hopelessly naïve or polishing the reality to promise something other than can be delivered,” said Paul Light , a New York University professor and expert on presidential transitions. “At best it’s naïve and a little bit of a shell game.”
Many of the Obama bundlers said they did not seek or expect anything for themselves.
“I just want to see somebody do a good job,” said Stewart Bainum, a Chevy Chase, Md., hotel chain CEO who with his wife, Sandy, raised $500,000 for Obama in 2008. He is listed in White House logs as a guest at a St. Patrick’s Day