More than two years after Obama took office vowing to banish “special interests” from his administration, nearly 200 of his biggest donors have landed plum government jobs and advisory posts, won federal contracts worth millions of dollars for their business interests or attended numerous elite White House meetings and social events, an investigation by iWatch News has found.
That’s the major point of a new Politico article out today, which focuses on an expose by iWatch News. And it has the examples to back up the claim. For example, meet Donald H. Gips:
Telecom executive Donald H. Gips raised a big bundle of cash to help finance his friend Barack Obama’s run for the presidency.
Gips, a vice president of Colorado-based Level 3 Communications, delivered more than $500,000 in contributions for the Obama war chest, while two other company executives collected at least $150,000 more.
After the election, Gips was put in charge of hiring in the Obama White House, helping to place loyalists and fundraisers in many key positions. Then, in mid-2009, Obama named him ambassador to South Africa. Meanwhile, Level 3 Communications, in which Gips retained stock, received millions of dollars of government stimulus contracts for broadband projects in six states — though Gips said he had been “completely unaware” that the company had received the contracts.
The term iWatch has given such people is “bundlers,” since they bundle together cash for the campaign. Here’s what the investigation found about these donors:
- 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 24 ambassador nominees who were bundlers raised $500,000.
- 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.
It should be noted that George W. Bush appointed bundlers, too. But according to iWatch, in just two years Obama has appointed as many bundlers as Bush did during his eight years in office.
The group offers a couple more examples:
Harvey S. Wineberg, a certified public accountant from Chicago who raised at least $100,000 and is Obama’s personal accountant, said his fundraising had “nothing to do” with his appointment to the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability in December 2010. Wineberg said he called a White House staffer, whom he declined to name, to ask about serving. “I thought I’d be good,” he said. He has since resigned.
Michael Caplin, a Virginia consultant who assists nonprofit businesses, raised $200,000 for Obama and was appointed to the Commission on Presidential Scholars, a board that selects and honors promising high school students. He said he was contacted by a White House staffer asking him if he wanted to serve, though he saw plenty of other big donors angling for jobs and positions.
The appointment of George Washington University law professor Spencer Overton illustrates how the administration has rewarded many top fundraisers.
Overton wrote in 2003 that the influence big donors wield in elections means that an “overwhelming majority of citizens are effectively excluded from an important stage of the political process.” Yet Overton bundled at least $500,000 for Obama. He was named to the Obama transition team and in February 2009 was appointed principal deputy attorney general in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Policy. Overton visited the White House more than 80 times from January 2009 through the end of 2010 for events ranging from small meetings with high-level staffers to social and entertainment events, sometimes with his wife, records show. Overton resigned the $180,000-a-year job in July 2010. He declined to comment for this story.
That sure doesn’t sound like the transparent and transformative administration that Obama promised. But then again, this is the same administration that was given a transparency award in secret.
Read the full report from iWorld News.