A pro-Obama group has responded to questions about whether it has been selling access to top White House officials by firing one of its chief fundraisers and announcing it will “revamp” its rules, according to The Hill.
Organizing for Action, a group that grew out of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, recently accepted the resignation of Samantha Maltzman, a “top fundraiser” with “strong ties” to the president, the report adds.
Attention was called to Maltzman after NBC News obtained copies of an email exchange between her and New Jersey businessman Munr Kazmir that reveals her explaining what it would cost him to gain access to a summit last week with Obama.
The email exchange would seem to challenge former Obama campaign manager and OFA chief Jim Messina’s 2013 promise that the group “can't and…won't guarantee access to any government officials.”
Kazmir ultimately didn’t attend the White House summit – but he did try to deliver a donation of $100,000 from a physician named Dr. Joseph Piacentile.
Maltzman rejected the OFA donation because of Piacentile's Medicare fraud conviction. Instead, she instructed Kazmir to donate Piacentile’s cash to America Votes, a progressive group that doesn’t have to disclose its donors.
OFA officials who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity said the Piacentile episode is the third time that their group had rerouted questionable political donations to smaller, progressive groups.
“OFA director Jon Carson also arranged for Kazmir to meet with White House aide Yohannes Abraham, the chief of staff of the White House Office of Public Engagement, and Ashley Green, who works on international education issues at the Agency for International Development,” The Hill reported. “Kazmir was reportedly seeking relief from a court judgment for failure to make payments on a $2.5 million loan to launch an American school in Pakistan.”
“White House officials told NBC that Abraham attended the meeting at a nearby coffee shop, but said he felt ‘uncomfortable” and ‘immediately extricated himself,’” the report adds.
OFA officials said the administration did not help Kazmir “obtain relief from the judgment.”
The pro-Obama group reminded staffers in an internal memo over the weekend that no one is authorized to promise or suggest that donors will be granted opportunities to speak with White House officials in return for donations.
“We have strengthened our policies to prevent an issue like this from ever reoccurring and to ensure that our sole focus in cities and states across the country is promoting the issues the American people voted for in 2012 and accomplishing a national progressive agenda,” Carson said.
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