Wall Street Journal White House reporter Carol Lee Monday asked White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest how he could justify keeping a huge bash with 500 invitees off the president’s schedule.
Lee noted that the White House has disclosed smaller, private events.
Lee: This was 500 people, lobbyists, corporate executives, an international celebrity, and it wasn’t even on the president’s schedule. So how do you justify that, and how is that in line with the president’s commitment to transparency.
Earnest: Carol, I think the fact that we’re talking about a private event, and details of this are known, is an indication that the president is committed to being transparent. At the same time, the president and the first lady are going to reserve the right to host private parties at the White House and they did it on their own dime, and I think that’s consistent with the kinds of values that they have talked about.
Well, they’re talking about it because it leaked to the press.
On the positive side, it’s good to know at least they paid for this.
But I have news for the Obamas. When they use what they so often refer to as “the people’s house” for a private bash that includes scores of wealthy individuals who may be trying to influence them in some way – or whom they may be trying to influence – any rudimentary conception of transparency demands that they disclose the party and the guest list so people can be interviewed before or after and reporters can determine the extent to which this is an innocent fun-fun affair or something else.
I’ll give you an example. President Obama is going to want to raise millions of dollars for his presidential library. Reporters should be able to find out who was at this party, whether there was any subtle suggestion that they might want to eventually fund the library, and whether attendees get hit up for cash in any kind of systematic fashion after they return home, polish off their party favors, and frame the White House napkins they took.
Because if so, this would not be a social event, it would be using the White House as a fundraising tool. Even if the Obamas paid for it, the premises are what inspired people to attend, not the food or the liquor. And not The Artist Formerly Know as Popular.
It’s a little hard for me to imagine why someone would want to have 500 people over the the house. The press should be able to snuff out whether there is an ulterior motive.