White House press secretary Jay Carney insisted Monday there was no "set price" for a meeting with President Obama, after watchdog groups cautioned that the nonprofit organization formed from the remnants of the president's reelection campaign could be perceived as selling access.
"The White House sets the president's schedule. And there is no price to meet with the president," Carney said.
"As you know, Organizing for Action was set up to promote the president's public policy agenda. Therefore, as anyone would expect, the president would likely meet with their representatives to discuss his agenda," Carney said. "But again, any notion that there's a price for meeting with the president is simply wrong."
Last week, The New York Times reported that the nonprofit group was offering donors access to quarterly meetings with the president if they donated half a million dollars. Smaller donations are said to ensure face time with former White House and Obama campaign officials, including former campaign manager Jim Messina, now OFA’s chairman.
The White House has said that characterization is untrue, and that donors were never promised access for a specific price. OFA has also said it never directly offered access to the president.
"OFA was founded to support the president’s agenda and the engine of this organization is and will continue to be our grassroots engagement and support," said OFA spokeswoman Katie Hogan in a statement last week.
"Unlike some other issue based groups, we have voluntarily elected to disclose all donors and will refuse donations from federally registered lobbyists. Supporters have shown interest in taking a part in OFA because they believe in the president's agenda, no one has been promised access to the president."
Over the weekend, the editorial boards of The Washington Post and New York Times called for stricter limits on the group, arguing the nonprofit would otherwise seem to be selling access. Common Cause, a government watchdog group, called for OFA to be disbanded in a statement last week.
“If President Obama is serious about his often-expressed desire to rein in big money in politics, he should shut down Organizing for Action and disavow any plan to schedule regular meetings with its major donors,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, in a statement. “Access to the president should never be for sale.”