Blunders and Bundlers
How much does it cost to sleep in the Lincoln bedroom these days, anyway? By some estimates at least, during Bill Clinton’s tenure, the single night, double occupancy fee ran somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000 if the proprietor considered you a friend. And to be fair, it’s a really nice room.
Today the idea of bundling that amount of cash for a presidential candidate and settling for a room in the West Wing with clean sheets and a mint on your pillow has a quaint, almost American Graffiti style sensibility to it. Even under the second Bush administration, Brad Freeman raised $200,000 and was awarded with a night in the historic hotel digs.
Brad, my friend, you simply weren’t thinking in 21st century terms. Under the Obama administration you don’t pony up that level of patronage and settle for an evening’s shelter. You get a career for it. As was recently reported by Politico, donors to the 2008 Hope and Change Tour were savvy shoppers, well acquainted with the worth of a dollar and expecting a generous return on their investment.
This is probably a rather thoughtless juncture to point out that the candidate in question derided such influence on the campaign trail. While seeking office, President Obama rose up in righteous indignation, stating that well-moneyed special interests had, “turned our government into a game only they can afford to play.”
Such warnings did nothing to scare off brave bundlers such as Cindy Moelis and her husband, Robert Rivkin. The Chicago natives managed to collect nearly one quarter of a million dollars for Obama’s initial White House run, and they clearly weren’t going to be satisfied with an evening at a glorified Motel 6. (Though I understand they do leave the lights on for you there also.) No, Ms. Moelis went on to take charge of the Presidential Commission on White House Fellows, while Mr. Rivkin wound up being General Counsel of the DOT, as well as special adviser to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Alabama attorney Ted Hosp also raised $200,000 for the Obamas, but wound up not being appointed to any type of government position. When asked about this deplorable situation he said that he had no expectation of a job when he signed on to the campaign finance committee, but “did ask to be considered.”
We would like to have more sympathy, Mr. Hosp, but I’m afraid this was simply a case of poor personal marketing. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, sir.
Few aspiration minded donors impressed us more than one Donald H. Gips, though. As a vice president for Level 3 Communications in Colorado, Don bundled up something in excess of one-half million dollars for Team Obama. In exchange, his company received millions of dollars in taxpayer funds as part of the stimulus program. But was that enough? Perish the thought. Mr. Gips first obtained a job with the administration, not having to perform actual work on behalf of the public, but as the person assigned to line up jobs for the rest of the donors waiting to receive positions. Such a task can chafe on a man’s dedication after a time, though, so it will come as little surprise that he later traded up to become our nation’s Ambassador to South Africa.
By this point, gentle readers, the deluge of information has doubtless left you with a sour taste on your collective tongues. These types of revelations are no doubt surprising. (Much in the same way that that one is surprised to find bird excrement on their car after parking under a tree or some power lines.) The very idea that powerful, lucrative positions in our own federal government could be purchased for merely the gross coinage of American dollars is surely enough to give one the vapors.
But if a piddling amount of cash which could barely finance one of Newt Gingrich’s cruises to the Greek Isles can land positions like these, surely some next century thinking could advance the process to more productive realms. The oil industry is still wringing their collective hands over the fact that they can’t produce any product in our territorial waters. Have they considered simply loading up one of those oil tanker trucks with Benjamins and backing it up to Robert Gibbs’ office in Chicago? There seems more than a middling chance that drilling permits would soon be falling like cherry blossom petals on the National Mall in May.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is apparently so hard up for funding that they’re selling guns to Mexican drug cartels. How much could a couple thousand assault rifles cost? For that price the NRA could probably land two more Supreme Court seats by the end of Obama’s first term.
We live in a free market society here, folks. The Obama administration has embraced this concept in full-throated glory. It’s time for the rest of us to catch up with this new paradigm or be left forever struggling behind the curve.
Speaking of which, I’d been meaning to speak to the editors here about a raise. Something in the range of nine figures should do it.