White House Taps Democratic Fundraiser as New Social Secretary

The White House has chosen Julianna Smoot, a prominent Democratic Party fundraiser, to replace Desiree Rogers as social secretary, Fox News has confirmed.

Rogers is stepping down next month in the wake of last year's White House gate-crashing scandal that she was blamed for.

Smoot served as national finance director for Obama's presidential campaign, helping raise $32.5 million during one quarter in 2007. She has also served as finance director for then-Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle and John Edwards' successful Senate bid in 1998.

Heading off expected criticism of the new aide's fundraising background, a senior White House official told Fox News that the social secretary for former President George W. Bush, Lea Berman, also had a fundraising pedigree.

Smoot's appointment comes just three months after an embarrassing security breakdown at a state dinner in which a celebrity-seeking couple from northern Virginia got into the exclusive Nov. 24 affair on the South Lawn without a formal invitation, despite heavy White House security.

President Obama said at the time that he was "unhappy with everybody who was involved in the process."

Rogers later acknowledged not having staff from her office at security checkpoints to help identify guests. Lawmakers had demanded that she testify to Congress about her handling of the event. The White House would not allow it.

Rep. Peter King, the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee who heavily criticized Rogers and tried in vain to get her to testify, said Friday: "I wish her well."

The president and first lady Michelle Obama issued a statement Friday thanking their longtime friend from their days together in Chicago for the "terrific job she's done" organizing more than 330 events in little more than a year in the post.

They indicated no reason for the departure, effective sometime next month after a transition period.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said a short time later that Rogers was neither forced out nor asked to leave. He also said he didn't think the dustup over the state dinner factored into her decision.

"She's decided it's time to go back to doing things that she loves," Gibbs said.

Rogers, 50, told the Chicago Sun-Times on Friday that she was leaving because she had achieved a major goal of the Obamas: turning the White House into the "people's house" by opening it up to many of those who normally do not get to visit.

"My work was really to create this framework. I think I completed that work," she told her hometown paper. "Our office has been able to lay the foundation for what will be known as the 'people's house' and it has already taken shape."

Rogers said she planned to explore opportunities in the corporate world.

Fox News' Major Garrett and The Associated Press contributed to this report.