WASHINGTON--In a change of policy, likely Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) will now open all his fund-raisers to the press, I've been told by the campaign. The new policy will be effective on Wednesday, when Obama travels to New York for two evening high-end fund-raisers at private homes. This new policy comes as Obama hit presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Az.) for his closed fund-raiser policy. Obama wants to make government transparency a major contrast between himself and McCain as he moves into general election mode.
Before Wednesday, Obama allowed pool reporters to cover most fund-raisers held in public places but declined to provide any information about fund-raisers in homes, not even the names of the hosts. Fund-raisers headlined by Michelle Obama now will all be disclosed to the public and covered by a print pool reporter.
This column ran on Jan. 12, 2008 Sweet column: Obama, under media pressure, makes public some fund-raising events. Did not disclose fund-raiser with Gov. Patrick.
WASHINGTON — White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who is making transparency a centerpiece of his presidential bid, will now put on his schedule fund-raisers if they are in a public place, a campaign spokesman said Friday.
The move comes after I wrote last Tuesday in my blog how Obama was starting another round of fund-raising without releasing details — this time about events in New York, Boston and Chicago — and after the campaign was asked by the Obama traveling press corps to open fund-raisers to the press and disclose the names of hosts and amounts raised.
The memo signed by the reporters who have been traveling with Obama noted that the White House provides such details. The change of policy came last week. “If the event is in a public place, there will be a pool reporter,” said spokesman Ben LaBolt.
On Monday, an Obama spokesman declined to provide any explanation of the fund-raising events Obama was doing in Boston, New York and Chicago on the grounds they would not be listed on his “public schedule.”
A revised schedule issued Wednesday listed some, but not all, fund-raising information. At issue is not who gives — that eventually is disclosed under federal law — but who is helping Obama by hosting an event. That information does not have to be made public.
The Obama campaign invited a reporter from the New York Post to act as a “pool” reporter for a fund-raiser Wednesday at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan and a Chicago Sun-Times reporter to be the pool reporter at a Thursday fund-raiser at the New Leaf in Old Town.
A Chicago fund-raiser at the Gold Coast home of Desiree Rogers on Thursday was not disclosed, nor were the names of the other hosts. (I got the list and ran it in my blog.) The Obama schedule for Wednesday omitted a fund-raiser hosted by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
It seems in the public interest to disclose when a governor is hosting a fund-raiser for a presidential candidate. Local reporters got wind of the event. The Boston Herald reported that the “crowd of supporters at the [Patrick] event included two members of Patrick’s Cabinet, Economic Development Secretary Dan O’Connell and Labor Secretary Suzanne Bump. Also on hand were Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh, hotel union head Janice Loux and U.S. Rep. William Delahunt (D-Quincy).”
This new pledge, if carried out, means Obama is ahead of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) on some routine fund-raising disclosure and coverage. When Obama started his presidential campaign last February, the campaign on occasion would have some pool coverage, but that ended.