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Posts Tagged ‘Special Interests’

The Obama Brand: Tarnished by the Passage of Obamacare over Bipartisan Opposition and Special Interest Deals

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Has the Obama Brand Been Tarnished By the Ugly Partisan Process Surrounding the Passage of his Signature Initiative, Obamacare?

President Barack Obama and the Democrats deserve a night or two to celebrate their historic victory in ramming the Obamacare package through Congress against bipartisan opposition, although only Democrats voted for the bill last night (219) while both Democrats (34) and Republicans (all) opposed the bill. However, as the reality of passage sets in upon America, an analysis of the political effects upon the Obama Brand is an interesting subject to review. CentristNet takes on this subject as the establishment media is in full celebration mode, with absolutely no focus so far in any reporting about the meaning of the substantial Democratic defections in the House yesterday or the lack of a single Republican vote in Congress for the massive initiative that defines the Obama Administration.

President Barack Obama will sign the Senate bill, as passed by the House last night, into law sometime this week, making the Louisiana Purchase, Cornhusker Kickback and unfair exclusion of only Florida residents from the cuts to Medicare Advantage the law of the land while also sanctioning a very flawed process that led a bipartisan coalition of legislators to oppose the Democrats-only bill.

President Obama ran for election in 2008 as a bipartisan, pragmatic problem solver and has frequently claimed in 2009 and 2010 that he is running his Presidency in an open, transparent and bipartisan manner while fighting the “special interests” on behalf of the American people. Now, centrist and independent Americans, as well as ideologues on both sides, are confronted with the example of the signature initiative of the Obama Presidency – health care reform – being passed in the most partisan fashion possible, with absolutely no Republican support and substantial Democratic opposition.  Indeed, 34 of the 253 voting House Democrats voted against the young President’s signature initiative – a not insignificant 13.4% of the House Democratic Caucus.

Considering this, one must now ponder the effect of this entire year-long process upon the Obama Brand – a brand that was built upon the idea of a post-partisan, cooperative governance that would end the untoward “ways of Washington” that so many Americans roundly reject. For instance, consider these sentiments from then-candidate Obama in his speech announcing his candidacy in January 2007:

We all made this journey for a reason. It’s humbling, but in my heart I know you didn’t come here just for me, you came here because you believe in what this country can be. In the face of war, you believe there can be peace. In the face of despair, you believe there can be hope. In the face of a politics that’s shut you out, that’s told you to settle, that’s divided us for too long, you believe we can be one people, reaching for what’s possible, building that more perfect union.

It was here we learned to disagree without being disagreeable — that it’s possible to compromise so long as you know those principles that can never be compromised; and that so long as we’re willing to listen to each other, we can assume the best in people instead of the worst.

I recognize there is a certain presumptuousness — a certain audacity — to this announcement. I know I haven’t spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I’ve been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change.

What’s stopped us from meeting these challenges is not the absence of sound policies and sensible plans. What’s stopped us is the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics — the ease with which we’re distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our preference for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to tackle big problems.

And as people have looked away in disillusionment and frustration, we know what’s filled the void. The cynics, and the lobbyists, and the special interests who’ve 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. The time for that politics is over. It’s time to turn the page.

It is quite jarring to read the words of candidate Obama listed above considering that President Obama just forced his massive health care plan, which fundamentally remakes nearly 20% of the American economy, through Congress without a single Republican vote – hardly an example of “building a working consensus” as he promised America on that chilly day in January 2007.    As jarring is the derisive 2007 talk about “special interests who’ve turned our government into a game only they can afford to play” as the President cut backroom deals with essentially every special interest group in the health care industry during the Obamacare process.  As the Obama Administration has spent an overwhelming majority of its political capital to date on health care reform, the fact that the only bipartisan aspect of the Obamacare package in the final analysis is the bipartisan opposition to its passage is certainly not what the country expected when Obama was ushered into office with 53% of the vote in November 2008.

A Laughing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is Seen Here after the House's 219-212 Passage of Obamacare Via Solely Democratic Votes With 34 Democrats and All Republicans joining in Bipartisan Opposition

Most Americans, including many centrists and independents, believed that Obama would work with Republicans on major issues like health care reform to produce centrist, bipartisan solutions.  This early public confidence in Obama’s potential to be a post-partisan, centrist leader is  shown by the incredible levels of approval Obama received early in his Presidency – upwards of 65-70% support.  Obama’s approval had fallen steadily since March 2009 into a range between 45-50% before the passage of Obamacare today, no doubt in part due to the ugly, partisan acrimony surrounding the health care reform effort.  Now that his signature initiative has passed, incredibly, without a single Republican vote in either the House or the Senate and 13.4% of House Democrats voting against it, America now knows that Obama has chosen a partisan path on the historic legislation that defines his Presidency.  Historically speaking, this exclusively partisan passage of a major domestic reform is unprecedented in American history, as both parties voted in favor of Social Security and Medicare, as well as the Civil Rights Act – yet only Democrats voted for Obamacare.

Obama, of course, has chosen to push a different narrative immediately after the House passage of the Senate bill – one that focuses on the allegedly centrist nature of his bill that just passed without a single Republican vote and garnered 34 Democratic no votes.   Obama gave a speech right after the House vote claiming that Obamacare proves “change in this country comes not from the top down, but from the bottom up” and that “tonight’s vote is not a victory for any one party — it’s a victory for them. It’s a victory for the American people.  And it’s a victory for common sense.”    Obama here is clearly trying to take the focus off the fact that only Democrats voted for his bill, and he reinforces his point by stating that now America will have “a health care system that incorporates ideas from both parties.”  Oddly, Obama appears to see himself as apart from the American people, saying it is “a victory for them” as opposed to a victory for us.  Obama also tweeted out this:

Tonight’s vote is not a victory for any one party – it is a victory for the American people. Tonight, we answered the call of history.

Obama also sent out an email to the many millions on his “Organizing for America” list, which said in part:

Our journey began three years ago, driven by a shared belief that fundamental change is indeed still possible. We have worked hard together every day since to deliver on that belief.

We have shared moments of tremendous hope, and we’ve faced setbacks and doubt. We have all been forced to ask if our politics had simply become too polarized and too short-sighted to meet the pressing challenges of our time. This struggle became a test of whether the American people could still rally together when the cause was right — and actually create the change we believe in.

Tonight, thanks to your mighty efforts, the answer is indisputable: Yes we can.

In last night’s speech, tweets, and email, Obama is trying to take the focus off the fact that only Democrats voted for the signature initiative of this Presidency and avoid the subject of bipartisanship if possible, despite the fact that the Obama Brand is based in part on the image of Obama as a pragmatic bipartisan reformer. Both his speech and tweet make the claim that last night’s historic passage of Obamacare is “not a victory for any one party”, while the email to his campaign list removes this reference for obvious reasons. All three communications claim that the passage of the bill is a victory for the “American people” despite the fact that a majority of the American people oppose the bill in general and 6473% of Americans would have preferred the President and Democrats either start over or start from scratch than do as they have now done in passing the present enormous, partisan bill. All told, it is clear that Obama will try to avoid any discussion of the lack of any semblance of bipartisanship in his signature initiative while also asserting that Obamacare “runs straight down the center of American political thought“, and it remains to be seen if that dog will hunt.

The odious special interest deals and pork in the Senate bill that was passed on Christmas Eve by the Senate, and last night by the House, will now all become the law of the land upon Obama’s planned signature early this week. While Obama and the Democrats will attempt to ram through a new bill to make changes to Obamacare though the Senate, the hard reality of the situation is that President Obama will sanction and endorse each and every backroom deal and pork handout in the Senate bill when he affixes his signature to it. The Senate may never pass the “fixes” Obama wants to the bill, “fixes” that were made necessary by the untoward deal cutting to obtain the Christmas Eve Senate passage of Obamacare from the sixty Democratic Senators who voted for it, such as the Cornhusker Kickback, Louisiana Purchase and ridiculous provisions that allow Florida residents to retain Medicare Advantage benefits while all other states’ residents lose same.

The Backroom, Pork-Laden Deals Between President Barack Obama and Nearly Every Special Interest Group in the Health Care Industry Have Dented the Obama Brand

Additionally, the President referred to his fighting the “special interests” in his comments last night, as well as in his 2007 campaign kickoff speech and at many points in between, and the image of Obama as a tireless fighter of “special interests” in Washington is a critical component of the Obama Brand.   Here as well, the Obama Brand has taken a hit during the Obamacare process as Obama himself has made backroom deals with the large drug companies (“Big Pharma”), American Medical Association, the hospitals, the AARP, the unions, and even some insurance companies as the past year of as the process has unfolded.

Regardless, in the days to come, expect Obama and the Democrats to attack the Republicans for “delaying” the “fixes” to the bill the Democrats themselves assembled and passed through the Senate on Christmas Eve. For instance, Obama also had this to say last night:

“On Tuesday, the Senate will take up revisions to this legislation that the House has embraced and these are revisions that have strengthened this law and removed provisions that have no place it in. Some have predicted another siege of parliamentary maneuvering in order to delay adoption of these improvements. I hope that’s not the case. It’s time to bring this debate to a close and bring in the hard work of implementing this reform properly on behalf of the American people.”

President Barack Obama, here with VP Joe Biden, on December 24, 2009 Praising the Senate Obamacare Bill's Passage

Here Obama is already staking out the high ground in the next phase of the Obamacare legislative battle, asserting that the changes that are to pass via reconciliation will remove “provisions that have no place” in the legislation. However, Obama himself is set to sign that very legislation early this week, and Obama had nothing at all to say about “provisions that have no place” in the bill in his December 24, 2009 statement after the Senate passage of Obamacare, calling it a “tremendous step forward” as he “hailed Senate passage“.

It appears that Obama and the Democrats will attempt to demagogue the GOP for stalling the Democratic attempt to push through changes to Obamacare via reconciliation in Senate by claiming the GOP is stopping the Democrats from fixing the very fraudulent deals the Democrats themselves made in order to obtain the initial Senate passage of the bill. As with Obama’s attempt to frame Obamacare as a bipartisan piece of legislation despite the fact that only Democrats voted for it and 13.4% of the House Democratic Caucus joined a unified GOP in opposing it, it remains to be seen if this dog will hunt as well.

Indeed, the entire, high profile “sausage-making” process over the past year or so surrounding the passage of the President’s signature initiative, Obamacare, demonstrates all of the untoward “ways of Washington” that candidate Barack Obama condemned in 2007-8, and President Obama has condemned in 2009 and 2010. Indeed, last night Obama condemned the very bill he will sign this week as having “provisions that have no place” in it.  Further, the background story of the strong arming done by Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the past few weeks of reluctant House Democrats is sure to be more fully reported in the days to come, and such details are also destructive of the Obama Brand.

All told, the Obama Brand of pragmatic bipartisanship has been seriously dented by the facts surrounding the passage of his Presidency’s signature initiative, and the next few weeks could bring more highlighting of the odious parts of the bill as the battle over Senate reconciliation heats up next week. Few, if any, Americans who voted for President Obama in November 2008 could have forseen that he would end up forcing comprehensive health care reform through Congress with only Democratic votes over bipartisan opposition via an ugly backroom deal laden process, and those facts could indeed change the way many Americans view the young President. Finally, then-candidate Obama’s words in 2007 about the need to avoid “slash and burn” politics and how American cannot “pass universal health care with a 50-plus-one strategy” are especially jarring considering the process that has now ended in the wholly partisan passage of his signature initiative:

Obama was talking about the differences between himself and his then-opponent in the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton.

“I think it is legitimate at this point for me to explain very clearly to the American people why I think I will be a better president than Hillary Clinton, and to draw contrasts,” Obama said.

“But that’s very different from this sort of slash-and-burn politics that I think we’ve become accustomed to. Look, part of the reason I’m running is not just to be president, it’s to get things done. And what I believe that means is we’ve got to break out of what I call, sort of, the 50-plus-one pattern of presidential politics. Which is, you have nasty primaries where everybody’s disheartened. Then you divide the country 45 percent on one side, 45 percent on the other, 10 percent in the middle — all of them apparently live in Florida and Ohio — and battle it out. And maybe you eke out a victory of 50-plus-one, but you can’t govern. I mean, you get Air Force One, there are a lot of nice perks to being president, but you can’t deliver on health care. We’re not going to pass universal health care with a 50-plus-one strategy. We’re not going to have a serious bold energy policy of the sort I proposed yesterday unless you build a working majority. And part of the task of building that working majority is to get people to believe in our government, that it can work, that it’s based on common sense, that it’s not just sort of scoring political points.

The interviewer then asked, “So is your answer to ‘Why I will be a better president than Hillary Clinton,’ is your answer that she’ll be a 50-plus-one president and you won’t?”

“Yes,” Obama said.

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Obama’s New Social Secretary Julianna Smoot Has Strong Ties to Norman Hsu and Was Obama 2008 Fundraising Chief; UPDATE: Single Biggest Hsu Donation Went to Smoot’s DSCC in 2005

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

New White House Social Secretary Julianna Smoot (photo by Lynn Sweet) Has Close Ties to Convicted Democratic Fundraiser Norman Hsu

The latest weekend firing by the Obama Administration (Van Jones, Gregory B. Craig) is the White House Social Secretary, Desiree Rogers. Rogers left last night under a cloud of scandal for her mishandling of Obama’s first State Dinner (with India) as the famous “party crashers”, the Salahis, somehow gaining entry uninvited. This resignation of a White House Social Secretary in the wake of scandal is yet another “unprecedented” development, courtesy of the Obama Administration. Other firsts from the Rogers tenure include the first claim of executive privilege made on behalf of the White House Social Secretary, as ludicrously stated by chief Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs at the height of the party crashers scandal. Without question, the Rogers tenure was the most scandal ridden tenure of any White House Social Secretary in American history. But enough the now departed Desiree Rogers, and time to analyze the past and present of the new White House Social Secretary, Julianna Smoot.

Left-leaning Politico journalist Ben Smith laments the appointment Obama’s chief fundraiser, Julianna Smoot, as the the new White House Social Secretary:

The promotion of Julianna Smoot to White House Social Secretary is good news for wealthy donors to President Obama’s campaign, for whom Smoot — the chief campaign fundraiser — is friend and point of contact.

Smoot, who had been working in the relative obscurity of the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, will now be the key gatekeeper to the kind of social functions from which donors have complained that this administration, unlike President Clinton’s, has barred them.

But the choice to unite money and access in the person of Smoot — a career political fundraiser whose efforts were downplayed by a campaign eager to focus on small donors — cuts against both President Obama’s broader message of change and against the talking points of her departing predecessor, Desiree Rogers.

Rogers told Lynn Sweet that she saw her role as turning the White House into the “people’s house,” and Michelle Obama praised her in a statement for “welcoming scores of everyday Americans through its doors, from wounded warriors to local schoolchildren to NASCAR drivers.”

Smoot may have the same goal, but her credentials and relationships point in the opposite direction: To ensuring access and satisfaction for the ultra-wealthy elite who will, incidentally, be called on to finance President Obama’s next campaign.

A White House official says appointing a fundraising staffer Social Secretary isn’t “outside the norm” because one of President George W. Bush’s Social Secretaries, Lea Berman, had been such a staffer, though not one of Smoot’s centrality.

As Ben notes, Smoot was Obama’s chief fundraiser for the 2008 campaign and she is a longtime veteran of Democratic fundraising, working for such liberal luminaries as John Edwards, Tom Daschle, Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Jay Rockefeller (all mentioned in today’s White House press release except, of course, John Edwards and Tom Daschle) and others. A 2007 article from the Washington Post outlines the critical role Smoot played in making the Obama presidential campaign a “serious contender” for the presidency, as she created the “fundraising juggernaut” that netted Obama $75 Million by September 2007, earning her the moniker from WaPo of “the $75 Million Dollar Woman”:

On a frigid day in early January, Barack Obama rode the three blocks from the Capitol to a nondescript, four-story, white-brick building where he had rented a spartan office suite.

Obama pulled out a folding chair and sat down with Julianna Smoot, the veteran Democratic fundraiser he had hired to raise the millions of dollars he would need for a presidential bid. Smoot thumbed through a thin list of potential donors that Obama had gathered during his 2004 Senate bid in Illinois and as he helped other politicians raise money for elections in 2006. She frowned.

“It wasn’t much to work with,” Smoot recalled. “But that was how we started. He asked me what he should do, and I said, ‘Start calling. And don’t forget to ask for their credit card numbers.’ “

That was the beginning of a fundraising juggernaut that, perhaps more than any other single factor, helped transform Obama into a serious contender for the presidency. By the end of September, the senator from Illinois had raised more money for his primary bid than any other candidate in either party — more than $75 million. He did it not simply by using the new possibilities of the Internet, for which he has received considerable attention, but by creating almost overnight a network of “bundlers” — a core group of motivated supporters with the Rolodexes to bring along friends and associates.

From all appearances, as described in Ben Smith’s article today and the WaPo’s 2007 piece, amongst other sources, the new White House Social Secretary Smoot is the insider’s insider, with close personal contacts with many if not most major Democratic donors and folks known as presidential “bundlers”, who bundle up maximum donations from others to the candidate and are central to modern presidential fundraising. As chief fundraiser, Smoot oversaw the creation of the Obama bundlers task force in 2007, the 100 top bundlers who went on to form the core of Obama’s fundraising effort, going from the meeting at Obama’s “spartan” office in DC to a spacious 11th floor office in downtown Chicago in less than a year:

Obama’s campaign offices are spread across the entire 11th floor of a Chicago high-rise. The finance team’s desks are scattered around a Ping-Pong table. Tabloid headlines — “Record Haul for Obama,” “Run for the Money” — are taped to the walls.

As the summer wore on, Smoot sat in the middle, tracking dozens of events around the country on her laptop. In a rolling series of phone calls with her regional fundraisers, she pushed and prodded them to hit their goals, then updated her spreadsheets so she could keep tabs on the quarter’s target.

Imprisoned former Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu (seen here with Hillary Clinton) Has Again Popped Up in National News as his Ties to Obama's New Social Secretary, Julianna Smoot, are Revealed

Smoot apparently has little problem with associating with unsavory characters, such as now-imprisoned Democratic fundraiser Norman Hsu. The two were quite close, has mutual “respect” for each other as Hsu served as one of Smoot’s “most reliable donors from her tenure as finance chair for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.” Smoot aggressively pursued Hsu on behalf of the Obama campaign, as noted by the 2007 WaPo “$75 Million Dollar Woman” piece:

Smoot knew Obama was not alone in pursuing potential fundraisers. Some were getting daily calls from presidential candidates. One potential bundler contacted by Smoot was Norman Hsu, one of the most reliable donors from her tenure as finance chair for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Hsu would later become mired in scandal as a top bundler for the Clinton campaign, but he was regarded at the time as a prime target because of his reputation for producing a steady flow of campaign cash.

In an interview — before it was reported that Hsu was a fugitive trying to outrun a 15-year-old conviction for running a Ponzi scheme — he recalled his call from Smoot. She asked what he thought of Obama’s bid and whether he might consider helping. “I told her, ‘You’re asking for an unbiased opinion from someone who is very biased.’ She knew I was loyal to Senator Clinton. I told her she was asking the wrong person. We both respected each other well enough not to talk about it after that.

The NY Daily News detailed the various campaign fundraising crimes that Hsu was convicted of after his May 2008 trial, and at his sentencing (he received 24 years in jail), presiding Judge Victor Marrero declared that “Hsu’s dishonest use of political campaigns to perpetuate his fraud strikes at the very core of our democracy.” CNN reports on the sentencing:

NEW YORK (CNN) – A former Democratic fund-raiser who contributed to the presidential campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama was sentenced Tuesday to 292 months, or more than 24 years, in prison for fraud including campaign finance violations, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced.

“Norman Hsu betrayed the trust of his victims by stealing their money with false promises of fake returns in order to finance a luxurious lifestyle…Today’s sentence underscores our commitment to stop swindlers like Hsu in their tracks and bring them to the bar of justice,” Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement.

The sentencing breakdown includes 240 months in prison for wire and mail fraud charges and 52 months in prison for charges of campaign finance fraud. Judge Victor Marrero, who issued the sentence Tuesday afternoon at a Manhattan federal court, said in a statement, “Hsu’s dishonest use of political campaigns to perpetuate his fraud strikes at the very core of our democracy.”

Hsu, 57, was convicted in May on four counts of campaign fraud – one for each year from 2004 to 2007.

Earlier this year, Hsu also was found guilty on 10 counts of mail and wire fraud surrounding his investment practices.

He was indicted in 2007 after an investigation into his two investment companies.

When he was convicted in May, prosecutors said that Hsu not only swindled investors out of at least $20 million but also told some investors to make campaign contributions to the candidates he supported, and suggested that their investments could be jeopardized if they didn’t do as he asked.

Hsu has pleaded guilty to orchestrating the Ponzi scheme.

Obama’s campaign at the time of the public disclosure of Hsu’s alleged criminal wrongdoing (after initial hesitation), decided to donate the funds raised by Hsu for Obama for his first national campaign, the 2004 run for the Illinois Senate seat to charity. Democratic Underground reported in 2007 that “Obama’s team scored a significant hit by helping to place a story in several newspapers revealing that Norman Hsu, a major Clinton donor, had skipped town after having pleaded no contest to a charge of grand theft” while TalkLeft pointed out out at the time that Obama’s campaign had criticized Clinton at the time for risking her “independence” by taking shady donations:

Tuesday, Barack Obama’s spokesperson said the Senator would not give up the donations received from Norman Hsu.

… spokesman Jen Psaki said Obama, who has criticized Clinton for taking contributions that could undermine her independence, had no plans to return Hsu’s donations.

Today, he’s had a change of heart.

A spokesman for Senator Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat who is a rival of Mrs. Clinton for the party’s presidential nomination, said Mr. Obama intended to give away $7,000 that Mr. Hsu contributed to his committees.

Interestingly, the Newsday story quoting Jen Psaki used by Talkleft above is no longer an available link. Considering the return of the money raised by Hsu after the explicit Obama campaign acknowledgment to the Washington Post in September 2007 that Hsu brought a “major fundraiser” to Obama in the mid-2000’s, Hsu’s links to Obama were not insubstantial, making the choice of Smoot, who herself is closely tied to Hsu, an odd choice by Obama. Hsu received the longest prison sentence for campaign finance crimes in recent history, according to our searches, between the time Obama’s campaign returned some Hsu money in September 2007 and the appointment of Julianna Smoot today.  Indeed, as Obama has railed against the “broken” Washington lately over the stalling of his health care plan (and as that battle heats up), the appointment of this fundraiser Smoot, who made Obama into a “serious contender” by using her stellar insider connections in 2007, and considering her not so stellar insider connections folks like Hsu, must be disappointing to those who are true believers in Obama’s “hope and change” mantra as well to centrist fans of good governance.

Regardless, it is clear that, even from the left-leaning point of view, Obama’s appointment of Julianna Smoot represents “good news for wealthy donors to President Obama’s campaign” and a sign of increased influence in the White House of the “wealthy elite” who will fund Obama 2012.    Considering the spate of stories last week about the beginning of the campaign operations of Obama 2012, perhaps Smoot’s appointment is unsurprising as she’ll likely serve as a hub for the prior donor network that she established back in 2007 that jumpstarted the Obama 2008 campaign.   This move by Obama appears to contradict his 2008 campaign rhetoric about lessening the influence of big money on the White House, his recent condemnation of the Supreme Court decision on corporate donations, and other Democrats recent comments, like those of NY Dem Rep. Anthony Weiner), which bemoaning the influence of large big money in politics.   Indeed, Ben concludes his piece by noting that the Smoot appointment “cuts against both President Obama’s broader message of change” and the Rogers and Obama talking points about increased “openness” in the White House to all Americans, not just the wealthy few.  Smoot’s deep ties to Norman Hsu certainly punctuate this point of view, and Obama has been under fire from watchdog groups for failing to curb “big money” influence in DC even before the Smoot appointment.

Obama’s comment on the Smoot appointment touches these familiar claims, saying that Smoot shares the Obamas’ commitment “to creating an inclusive, dynamic and culturally vibrant White House.”   In response to Ben Smith’s article, an anonymous White House official played the familiar “Bush did it” card by defending Smoot’s appointment as not “outside the norm” because a Bush social secretary, Lea Berman, had been a low-level fundraiser. Of course, Berman was a not the central, chief fundraiser for Bush, like Smoot was in for Obama and as Smoot apparently will be for Obama 2012.  Further, the White House Social Secretary’s job has never been filled by the top fundraiser of the President’s campaign, creating another “unprecedented” development from the Obama White House. We can only hope that Obama is correct in his assessment of Smoot, and that Smoot’s appointment does not signal an increase special interest and wealthy donor influence in the Obama White House as we approach the 2010 and 2012 elections.   If Smoot couldn’t sniff out an ongoing campaign finance criminal enterprise that Hsu was engaging in as he served as one of Smoot’s “most reliable donors from her tenure as finance chair” of the DSCC for the 2006 election cycle, a reasonable question can be asked as to whether Smoot should be in charge of access of other bundlers and everyone else to the Obama White House.

UPDATE: No reporting yet on the close ties between Smoot and Hsu by the mainstream media.   While we do not have the resources to truly investigate the long term ties between Hsu and Smoot, one interesting fact turned up in our research: the single biggest donation that Hsu made during the years for which he was convicted of campaign finance crimes (2004-2007) was $26,700.00 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) in June 2005, at a time when Smoot was the Finance Chair of the DSCC:

NEW YORK,NY 10016 COOL PLANETS 6/9/05 $26,700 Democratic Senatorial Campaign Cmte (D)

The next biggest donation to anyone by Hsu, ever, was less than half of the $26,700.00 donated by Hsu to the DSCC while Smoot was the DSCC finance chair. That explains why Hsu was described by the Washington Post in 2007 as “one of the most reliable donors from her tenure as finance chair for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee” and why Smoot tried a hard sell on Hsu to pull him away from Clinton and to Obama in early 2007. A reasonable inquiry remains to be made as to why Smoot, who apparently could not discern that one of her “most reliable donors” Hsu was in fact engaged in criminal violations of campaign finance laws, is fit to be in charge of all access to the White House. Further, aside from the Hsu issue, considering Smoot is a career fundraiser and insider’s insider, putting her in charge of White House access could be seen a case of letting the fox guard the hen house.

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Obama Returns to Rhetoric of Bipartisanship, One Year Later; Reality Mixed

Monday, February 15th, 2010

A week and a year after formally eschewing bipartisan governance with his speech at the House Democratic Retreat on February 6, 2009, in the aftermath of Republican Scott Brown’s election to the Senate in Massachusetts, President Barack Obama has returned to the rhetoric of bipartisanship as a central focus. As the polls were set to close on Brown’s January 19, 2010 Election day shocker, Obama summoned his former campaign manager, David Pfloffe, to the White House for a lengthy meeting to plan a strategic response. It appears to this observer that Pfloffe’s strategy, as adopted by Obama in the past few weeks, is to have Obama use his personal charisma to talk up the themes of the 2008 campaigh: the need for “change” regarding partisan governance, “Washington’s ways” and the dominance of special interests.

According to post-January 19, 2010 Obama, all of the above problems in Washington can be solved if the GOP would just “come to the table” and negotiate bipartisan policies with a willing Obama. From a communications strategy viewpoint, it appears the Pfloffe bipartisanship strategy has been fairly successful, as it appears that Obama has stanched the bleeding somewhat as his recent fall in approval has slowed to stabilize at approximately 48-49% approval. The key question, of course, for a centrist observer of these events is whether Obama’s return to the rhetoric of bipartisanship will be matched by actual negotiations with the GOP that result in centrist policy proposals or just more advocacy of his present left-wing agenda. Indeed, as former Office of Personnel Management Director Capretta posits:

In the daily back-and-forth of political news coverage, it is easy to lose sight of what a stunning turnabout this renewed interest in bipartisanship represents for Barack Obama. For more than a year, his administration attempted to govern based on an entirely different approach. The Democrats in the White House and on Capitol Hill welcomed any Republican willing to jump aboard their legislative plans. But, as the president and his top advisers repeatedly said, they were going to move ahead with “their agenda” — with or without willing Republican participation.

Any discussion of Obama’s proclivities and bipartisan bona fides must begin and essentially end with a discussion of the signature issue of his Presidency: health care reform. The next major event in the health care reform debate is the President’s “Health Care Summit” designed by the Administration and set for February 25, 2010. The Administration has noted it will produce a “compromise” version of its health care reform legislation before the summit, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Leader Harry Reid, along with Administration officials, are negotiating that “compromise” version this week.

As it stands now, there is no GOP input into these final negotiations between Obama and Congress regarding health care reform. Indeed, as the Democrats are negotiating a “compromise” version of health care reform now, and will produce it prior to the 2.25.2010 Health Care Summit with the GOP, the likelihood of an true centrist compromise between liberals and conservatives seems highly unlikely.

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