OTR Interviews

In the Obama sequestered White House, it's the 'People's House' ... if you're a lobbyist

Pres. Obama eliminated public tours of the White House as part of the sequester, but hundreds of K Street lobbyists have continued to have access


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 17, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Congressman, we also want to talk to you about another report. It says that while the White House is still closed to tours for regular Americans, its doors remain open to hundreds of lobbyists, the Washington Examiner analysis showing 200 lobbyists visited the White House 344 times between March and May. That's when the White House tours have been shut down. Your thought.

ALLEN WEST, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR/FORMER FLA. CONGRESSMAN: Yes. Well, I thought that the White House belonged to the people, that this was a republic and it's not a monarchy. I think that some people see the White House as the palace at Versailles, where they are controlling of the type of people and who they want to come in, where they control who the types of people are that come in.

And isn't it interesting, we just talked about the fact that the Democrats say that we're out there for the poor, for the impoverished, but yet they're opening up the White House for the people that are out there talking about the big business and corporate interests.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'll tell you what annoys me is that I went back and did some research. I had research done for me. And President Obama back in 2000 -- 2007, 2008 in a debate with then -- with Senator McCain, says that -- you know, that -- he -- that he -- he talks about the culture in Washington, about lobbyists. He does the same thing in a speech in Des Moines on November 10th, 2007. He says, Lobbyists haven't funded my campaign. They will not run my White House. They're not going to drown out the voices of the American people when I'm president. I mean, you go all through his campaign...

WEST: Sure. Sure.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... through this first term, is lobbyists are going to have nothing to do with his campaign. Yet today, a lobbyist -- and this is -- I mean, it's -- every administration has done it.

WEST: That's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's just that the president said he wasn't going to!

WEST: Yes, the hypocrisy of it. You know, 119 members of his administration were previously lobbyist. I believe with Organizing for America now, if you cut a check for half a million dollars, you can get quarterly visits with the president.

So what does that say to the American people? But the most important thing, Greta, where is the media, this very complicit media in some venues going to start calling the president to task on that?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you know, I guess the thing is that, you know, at some point -- I mean, the fact that lobbyists -- I mean, it's always been lobbyists have had access to the White House. But I think what makes this one particularly painful is that Americans want to come and visit the White House.

WEST: Absolutely.

VAN SUSTEREN: And we talk about being the "People's House," yes, but it's also -- you know, I see the kids standing and...

WEST: Sure.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... you know, standing and looking through the gate, wanting to look in the -- you know, in the...

WEST: Sure.

VAN SUSTEREN: And for the life of me, you know, I can't figure out the -- you can't find enough money to open a White House tour so that kids can go through and see the White House? And we want to inspire them. That's the problem. It's not so much that the president is like every other president with lobbyists, although he said that he wasn't going to.

WEST: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's that, you know -- you know, figure it out.

WEST: Well, Capitol Hill is open for visitors, and so if they can figure it out up there on Capitol Hill for the House and the Senate, then why can't the president figure it out, as well? And maybe we shouldn't be so anxious to spend $1.5 million on a Tomahawk cruise missile if we can't allow the American people to come see the White House.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I think he'd probably say does that -- I mean, the president said that that has something to do with national security and with Syria, whether you -- whether you buy that or not. But...

WEST: I don't.

VAN SUSTEREN: No, I know you don't, indeed, but I'd like to see the White House open to the American people. I think they deserve that.

WEST: They do deserve it.

VAN SUSTEREN: So figure it out, right?

WEST: Figure it out.

VAN SUSTEREN: Figure it out. It's your job. Anyway, Congressman, always nice to see you, sir.

WEST: Pleasure. Thank you.