President Obama swept into office pledging to reform Washington’s lobbyist culture, but White House officials meet weekly with interest groups in “dialogues” and briefings that skirt the definition of lobbying.
Two groups, Business Forward and the Common Purpose Project, peddle access to White House aides to companies and progressive donors for tens of thousands of dollars.
The Politico reports:
In its first three years, [Business Forward] has worked with more than 200 administration officials, including Sunstein, head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs; Greg Nelson, deputy director of the Office of Public Engagement; and Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to Obama. The group holds from 20 to 30 events a month and is now operating in 45 cities. During the first six months of 2012, Business Forward expects to bring 2,000 people to Washington to meet with administration officials. Business Forward Executive Director Bert Kaufman said the group’s 2012 budget will be close to $2 million.
Several member company representatives said the group’s value is in the level of trust the principals have with administration officials who come to meetings, the intimacy of smaller events and introductions with Obama aides.
CPP, a nonprofit whose members are prominent liberal groups, holds invitation-only meetings weekly at the Capital Hilton Hotel. They have been regularly attended by senior administration officials like Lew, Jarrett and others. President Obama himself “dropped by” a session in January and gave a nod to the group’s moniker in the closing line of his State of the Union address later that month.