Is the Obama White House for Sale?

Some say outside groups are getting too cozy with President Barack Obama by paying for access to the White House.

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The Obama administration is being accused of getting too cozy with outside groups, and granting them unfair access to the president. The most prominent group, Organizing for Action, is a nonprofit created from much of the infrastructure of the Obama campaign and includes many former White House officials that remain close to the president.

Organizing for Action is chaired by 2012 campaigner and former White House aide Jim Messina, and other former Obama aides are on the board. Another, former senior adviser to Obama, David Plouffe, is expected to join as well. The group seeks to turn the successful Obama campaign machine into grassroots campaigns to support his agenda, and controls the campaign E-mail database and Twitter handle. Because it is a nonprofit, it is illegal for Organizing for Action to interfere with elections and must follow stringent lobbying rules.

[ Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

Other groups, like Business Forward, is a corporate-funded group that organizes meetings between the Obama administration and businesses. There are more than 50 corporations that contribute $25,000 to $50,000 to be given access to meetings between the White House and business leaders.

The White House denies that donors of these groups are being given special access to the president, and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney insisted that "there is no price to meet with the president:"

As you know, Organizing for Action was set up to promote the president's public policy agenda. Therefore, as anyone would expect, the president would likely meet with their representatives to discuss his agenda … But again, any notion that there's a price for meeting with the president is simply wrong.

[ Check out our collection of political cartoons on Super PACs.]

Common Cause, a nonpartisan group seeking a transparent government, said Obama should shutter Organizing for Action. It also called for the group to refuse donations from lobbyists, corporations, and unions:

With its reported promise of quarterly presidential meetings for donors and ‘bundlers' who raise $500,000, Organizing For Action apparently intends to extend and deepen the pay-to-play Washington culture that Barack Obama came to prominence pledging to end … The White House's suggestion this week that this group will somehow be independent is laughable.

Organizing for Action accepts unlimited donations from both individuals and corporations, but said it will release the names of those donors. Obama has previously decried the role of outside money in politics, yet the finances of these groups suggest he is no longer so vehemently opposed.

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