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Obama is selling access to the White House

Barack Obama opened his campaign for the presidency on Feb. 10, 2007 with a pledge to bring a different kind of governing approach to Washington.

Obama made a point to draw a distinction between the kind of president he would be and the big money ways of Washington.

Obama said cynics, lobbyists and special interests had "turned our government into a game only they can afford to play.

"They write the checks and you get stuck with the bills. 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."

He repeated the theme many times during that campaign, and specifically called out primary election opponent Sen. Hillary Clinton for accepting large amounts of special interest money.

But President Obama has done a 180-degree turn on the issue.

The New York Times reports that Obama's political team is creating a national advocacy network. Organization for Action will be similar to a super PAC, with a goal of raising $50 million to lobby for causes like gun control and climate change.

And, being the president, Obama is able to offer unprecedented access for big money.

The Times says, "Giving or raising $500,000 or more puts donors on a national advisory board for Obama's group and the privilege of attending quarterly meetings with the president, along with other meetings at the White House."

The paper says the meetings come as many top donors are "angling for appointments to administration jobs or ambassadorships."

So let's get this straight.

Not that long ago, Barack Obama set himself apart from his opponents by decrying big contributors who buy access and now he's essentially selling access to the White House at one-half million dollars a pop.

That even raises eyebrows at MSNBC, a network that frequently fawns over the president.

"This was precisely what Obama campaigned against in 2007 and 2008," opined Chuck Todd Monday morning. "I wonder what candidate Obama would say about this."

Others critics are more direct.

Bob Edgar, the president of Common Cause, which opposes unlimited campaign spending, is quoted in the Times as saying of Obama's new organization:

"It just smells. The president is setting a very bad model setting up this organization."

Indeed he is. If this president gets away with it, what's to prevent future presidents from treating the White House as a glorified hotel ballroom where donors write big checks to get some face time with people at the highest levels of power?

Candidate Obama said in 2007 that the time for that kind of politics is over.  "It's time to turn the page," Obama said.

Well, we have turned the page, but it's the same old story. . . only worse.

Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. The show can be heard locally on WCHS 580 AM.



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