A new report by iWatch claims the Obama administration gave 200 of its biggest campaign donors key assignments within the government or granted their business interests with federal contracts.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was pressed about the issue at the White House briefing Wednesday and said that giving money doesn't qualify someone for a post, but also doesn't disqualify them and that decisions were based on merit.
"You asked me about supporters of the president who may have been donors who have gotten positions and I would point out to the fact that the people who got those positions got then because of their credentials. They also happen to be donors in some cases. There are obviously numerous and far many more cases of people who weren't donors who were appointed the jobs," Carney said.
Some are charging that the new report is at odds with President Obama's claims on the campaign trail that he would bring a new kind of government to Washington and not cater to special interests.
"They write the checks and you get stuck with the bill," Obama said of "cynics, lobbyists and special interests" when he announced his candidacy in February of 2007. "They get the access while you get to write a letter. They think they own this government. But we're here today to take it back."
"The time for that kind of politics is over," Obama added. "It is through. It's time to turn the page right here and right now."
Carney Wednesday stated that the administration has held the highest ethical standards and has had bold transparency.
"[O]ur ethical standards are unmatched by any previous administration," Carney said at the White House press briefing. "Our efforts at transparency are unprecedented. And that's not just me saying it, it is outside groups who have said that. So I think that the fact that individuals who have been appointed also supported the President is hardly a story."
The investigation revealed that the donors, or so-called "bundlers" were able to raise $50,000 to more $500,000 for Obama's 2008 bid, and of course that the White House wants them back on board for 2012.
iWatch notes the example of Donald. H. Gips, telecom executive of Level 3 Communications LLC who gave more than half a million dollars to the Obama campaign along with two fellow execs who gave at least $150,000.
After the 2008 Obama win, Gips got the gig of hiring for the administration, and was later named the ambassador to South Africa.Level 3 also was able to nab $13.8 million in stimulus money. iWatch reports that Gips had stock in Level 3, but claimed he was completely unaware of the stimulus money.
The report also stated that some donors didn't expect anything in return, quoting a hotel CEO Stewart Bainum who got invited to the White House St. Patrick's Day party.
The iWatch investigation also concluded that 184 of 556 of the bundlers or their spouses joined the Obama administration and it bumps up even higher to 80 percent for the big-money givers. They conclude that more than half of the ambassador nominees raised more than $500,000.
Donors with connections to clean energy and telecommunications companies, which are part of the president's economic agenda, also seemed to benefit from giving cash the report says.
iWatch is part of the Center for Public Integrity, a non-profit group that looks to do investigative journalism. Their report comes on the heels of a New York Times report earlier this week that stated the president hosted Wall Street execs at the White House before he announced his re-election campaign and that the execs also happened to be big donors. Former President Bill Clinton was similarly criticized for hosting coffees with donors in the White House Map Room.
On Tuesday, Carney defended the meeting saying it was not a fundraiser and just because the president meetings with supporters to get ideas on the economy is not that ground-breaking and that the meetings are something presidents from both parties have done.
In addition to that, The HuffingtonPost obtained a memo earlier this week detailing a strategy of retaining donors by encouraging the White House to give them a sense of access and that they were being heard.
The press secretary also stated himself as an example for someone who hadn't given a lot of money, but still has a job with the administration.
In addition to getting government jobs, the iWatch report states that donors also nabbed key invites for social events and meetings at the White House. The White House visitor logs revealed 800 bundler visits and that Obama met with at least two dozen of them privately or in person, states iWatch.