By Justin Sink - 02/25/13 08:09 PM EST
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday, in response to a New York Times report, that there was no price tag attached to seeing President Obama.
The newspaper reported this week that the president's former campaign organization was offering donors access to quarterly meetings with Obama if they donated half a million dollars.
But pressed on whether the report was categorically false, the press secretary appeared to hedge.
"The president is engaged in an effort to pass items on his agenda, and outside organizations that support that agenda, like the organizations that are environmental in nature and support aspects of the president's environmental agenda, or organizations that support his manufacturing agenda, you know, administration officials can meet with them, including the president," Carney said.
According to the Times report, donors paying $50,000 each will earn the opportunity to meet the president's former campaign adviser, Jim Messina, and former White House Office of Public Engagement Director Jon Carson. Donations of half a million dollars or above buy a placement on a national advisory board that meets quarterly with the president.
Pressed on whether such a system would open the White House to charges of influence buying — donations to the nonprofit group birthed from the president's campaign apparatus are unlimited — Carney stressed the president's prior statements on campaign finance reform.
"The fact of the matter is the president has continually pressed for greater transparency in our political system," Carney said. "He very famously made clear his feelings about a Supreme Court decision that introduced and injected huge sums of money into our political campaigns. And he calls on Republicans to support the Disclose Act, which he and Democrats support which would, at the very least, allow for the public to know who was funding these organizations."
Carney also noted that federal tax law prohibited Obama's group from political campaigning, emphasizing that donations could only be spent on "issue advocacy." And he said OFA had opted to disclose its donors, despite not being required to do so under the law.
"It has said quite clearly, distinguishing it from other organizations, that it will disclose its donors," Carney said.
Last week, government watchdog groups warned that the decision to keep OFA active after the present's reelection left the Obama administration ripe for a second-term scandal.
"We’re concerned by his Organizing for Action group that’s being set up because it creates a huge potential for government corruption where basically corporations and other wealthy donors can fund this new group that can be a partner organization that is basically working on Obama’s agenda,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, senior vice president for policy and program at Common Cause.
“It invites through a back door special interest influence and access and it’s a step in the wrong direction," she added.
—Alex Bolton contributed