domingo, 15 de abril de 2012

Una donación generosa te abre las puertas de la Casa Blanca



The New York Times señala que Washington DC funciona exactamente igual que antes del Hope and Change:
Although Mr. Obama has made a point of not accepting contributions from registered lobbyists, a review of campaign donations and White House visitor logs shows that special interests have had little trouble making themselves heard. Many of the president’s biggest donors, while not lobbyists, took lobbyists with them to the White House, while others performed essentially the same function on their visits.

More broadly, the review showed that those who donated the most to Mr. Obama and the Democratic Party since he started running for president were far more likely to visit the White House than others. Among donors who gave $30,000 or less, about 20 percent visited the White House, according to a New York Times analysis that matched names in the visitor logs with donor records. But among those who donated $100,000 or more, the figure rises to about 75 percent. Approximately two-thirds of the president’s top fund-raisers in the 2008 campaign visited the White House at least once, some of them numerous times.

The reasons someone might have gained access to the White House and made a donation are wide-ranging, and it is clear that in some cases the administration came down against the policies being sought by the visitors. But the regular appearance of big donors inside the White House underscores how political contributions continue to lubricate many of the interactions between officials and their guests, if for no other reason than that donors view the money as useful for getting a foot in the door.

Some of the donors had no previous record of giving to the president or his party, or of making donations of such magnitude, so their gifts, sometimes given in close proximity to meetings, raise questions about whether they came with expectations of access or were expressions of gratitude.

Dr. William C. Mohlenbrock, chairman of a health care data analysis firm, Verras Ltd., gave occasionally to political candidates over the years, mostly small amounts to Republicans. But last May he contributed the maximum allowable gift, $35,800, to the Obama Victory Fund, which benefits the president’s campaign and the Democratic Party. Later in the year, with help from a Democratic consultant, he landed a meeting with a top White House aide involved in the health care overhaul, but failed to persuade Medicare officials to require more health data collection as part of the new regulations.

Joe E. Kiani, who heads a medical device company, Masimo Corporation, stepped up his giving to Democrats last year as medical device makers campaigned unsuccessfully for the repeal of an excise tax imposed on the industry. Mr. Kiani had several meetings with White House officials last year, including two with lobbyists from his company and another with representatives from his industry’s trade association. In the midst of these gatherings, he donated $35,800 to the victory fund.

(...) Although those in office invariably deny it, the notion that access is available at a price is a well-founded reality of Washington. Memorably, President Nixon was caught on tape remarking that $250,000 should be the minimum donation for an ambassadorship. The Clinton White House offered major donors coffees with the president or sleepovers in the Lincoln Bedroom. More recently, Republicans in Congress have raised questions about whether Democratic donors who invested in the solar energy company Solyndra and other troubled firms influenced the administration’s support of those businesses, pointing to White House visits and other official contacts. The administration denies there was any wrongdoing.

At a minimum, it is standard for administrations to recognize generous supporters with sought-after invitations to special events. The Obama White House logs are filled with the names of donors welcomed for St. Patrick’s Day receptions, Super Bowl parties and concerts. Last year, several major Democratic donors rounded out the guest list for a film screening with the first lady.

But in addition to social events, business is also carried out in the White House and its executive offices. The logs suggest some Obama fund-raisers and donors have been trafficking in ties they forged to the administration, helping clients get a seat at the table.

(...) Noah Mamet, another veteran Democratic fund-raiser and consultant, emphasizes on his firm’s Web site that he and his partners “are not lobbyists.” Instead, they help their clients “strategically navigate the worlds of politics, philanthropy and business.” Mr. Mamet, who donated $35,800 last year, and his partners have visited the Obama White House more than a dozen times, including at least four occasions on which they accompanied clients to meetings with administration officials. Mr. Mamet declined to comment.

Lamell McMorris, a Chicago native and longtime Obama supporter who appears in White House visitor logs 20 times, runs a Washington consulting firm that, as recently as last year, was registered to lobby. He also operates a sports management company, and has taken clients like the football player Cam Newton and the New Jersey Nets guard Anthony Morrow to the White House for private tours. Mr. McMorris did not reply to requests for comment.

(...) David Beier, who oversees government affairs at the pharmaceutical company Amgen, has had nearly a dozen meetings at the White House, according to the visitor logs. On a single day in February last year, Mr. Beier, Amgen’s chief executive, Kevin W. Sharer, and lobbyists from the Podesta Group, the firm led by the Democratic fund-raiser Tony Podesta, had four meetings with top White House officials, including Ms. Jarrett, Pete Rouse and Austan Goolsbee. Mr. Beier — who was registered to lobby for Amgen for 10 years until last year — donated $35,800 in January, his largest such contribution. The donation came two weeks after he and Mr. Podesta visited the White House for another meeting with an economic official.