The ever-present tension between politics and money is getting more intense as a newspaper article released Wednesday alleges that President Obama's political donors have received special access to the White House and even the President himself.
The Washington Times newspaper says it has obtained DNC documents which show, "High-dollar fundraisers have been promised access to senior White House officials in exchange for pledges to donate $30,400 personally or to bundle $300,000 in contributions ahead of the 2010 midterm elections," says the paper.
But the White House strove to neutralize any cause-and-effect inferences, "[C]ontributing doesn't guarantee a visit to the White House, nor does it preclude it." White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters.
Deputy White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer added, "Given that nearly 4 million Americans donated to the campaign, it's no surprise that some who contributed have visited the White House as have grassroots organizers who didn't contribute financial support and people who actively opposed the President's candidacy," he said.
Still, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele says the issue needs to be probed further, "The seriousness of this issue requires an immediate investigation looking into the degree and details of fundraising efforts between the White House and DNC, whether there was any quid pro quo offered to donors, and the names of White House officials who were involved in such activities."
Gibbs said there is no quid pro quo, but he didn't offer to divulge the details of any of the visits in question. He said records to be released in December, as the administration had planned, will "denote who that person is, when they came, how long they were here, and who they met with...a standard not met by any other previous White House."
However, if there are special requests from the media and other entities before that time, Gibbs said, those will be fulfilled.
Administrations granting access to political donors is nothing new. The Lincoln Bedroom of the White House became the butt of late-night jokes amid reports in the 90s that President Clinton "sold" access to it; something the former President denied.
President George W. Bush was also alleged to have rewarded his donors with visits to the Maryland Presidential retreat Camp David. The Obama White House, however, has publicly branded itself as more transparent than its predecessors; something it stood by Wednesday, "This Administration has across the board set the toughest ethics standards in history," Pfeiffer told Fox.
He said it's important to differentiate between a friend and a donor, "Many of the people mentioned in this story have been friends and associates of the Obamas for decades - including college roommates and family friends whose relationships predate and are separate from the President's career in public service."
But conservative public interest group Judicial Watch wants facts to back that up. "A number of federal laws could have been broken by this White House fundraising program," President Tom Fitton said.
"Attorney General Holder can demonstrate his independence by appointing a special counsel to conduct an independent investigation of these serious allegations."