Although President Barack Obama’s administration touts its support of an open and transparent government, there’s been a glaring exception: opening up political fundraisers to the pool of White House reporters who trail the president.
So far, in 2014, President Obama has headlined 41 political fundraisers, according to data from Party Time. Of those parties, the press has been shut out of almost half – 19, to be exact. Data from Political Party Time was cross-referenced with the White House President’s Schedule to distinguish between closed and open press events. Money raised at these pricey gatherings (Party Time shows that, more times than not, donors put down upwards of $32,400 to attend) benefited the Democratic National Committee, the House Majority PAC or the Senate Majority PAC.
When a fundraiser is considered “closed press,” reporters are kept completely out of the event, as in, they are holed up in vans across the street or camped out in a different room of a hotel or private residence. They are unable to hear the president’s comments or see who is attending the event. For DNC events, a White House official will often provide details, like number of attendees and ticket prices, on background.
But the super PACs coordinate their own events, meaning the groups aren’t compelled to release any details and the White House can skirt most questions about them. Even though Obama has previously voiced his disapproval of super PAC cash, he’s changed course, headlining two events apiece for the House Majority PAC and the Senate Majority PAC since June.
On Wednesday afternoon, frustration among White House reporters about the lack of information on the PAC events bubbled up in the daily press gaggle with Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz:
The questions were posed during the plane ride from the Bay Area to Los Angeles. President Obama had attended a closed-press House Majority PAC fundraiser Wednesday morning at the Four Seasons in San Francisco followed by an open-press fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The president was en route to an open-press fundraiser for the DNC at the home of “Scandal” creator Shonda Rhimes.
The full transcript of the exchange can be found here.
Splash image credit: Flickr user Austen Hufford