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Remember When Obama Offered Access and Jobs for Big Inauguration Donations?

President Obama laughs at comedian Larry Wilmore at the 2016 White House Correspondents' Dinner

In my last column, I discussed how Donald Trump is being erroneously accused of illegal campaign finance violations and pointed to examples of how Barack Obama is guilty of worse violations of campaign finance laws. Yet there were no calls for Obama's impeachment, nor was there any media speculation about jail time. Well, apparently there’s a new twist in the game of “Let’s See What We Can Nail Trump For That’s Wasn’t A Crime When Obama Did It.” This week it was reported that “federal prosecutors in New York are investigating whether President Trump’s inaugural committee misused some of the record-breaking $107 million it raised and whether deep-pocketed donors were offered access to the incoming administration in exchange for cash.”

The nascent criminal probe, which was recently launched by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan, is based in part on records seized during FBI raids at the office and homes of Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.

Boy, that sounds serious, doesn’t it? Except, it really isn’t. Big donors expecting access in exchange for big donations is politics. It’s been going on long before Trump came to town… and guess what, liberals? Obama did it too. It’s not me just making stuff up, The Washington Post reported on this just before Obama's second inauguration.

The voters have spoken, but even after a $2 billion presidential campaign, the quest for dollars in Washington continues. This weekend, the high rollers are paying for inauguration parties that are almost always busts, a ceremony that’s better seen on TV and access that’s not exactly priceless but pretty darn expensive.

For the thousands of high-end donors who pay for the whole thing, the inauguration is about exclusive access to the president and vice president, as well as what insiders call “placement.” (Jobs, they mean.) Goodness knows it’s not the big public balls that lure the visitors; by universal accord, those mega-parties are mostly letdowns — people you don’t know and don’t like, bars you’d need a crowbar to reach, bad food and not enough of it.

That’s right, these big donors weren’t paying big bucks to go to parties and other inaugural events. They paid for "access to the president and vice president," in order to influence policy and to get themselves jobs or political appointments. According to the New York Daily News, Obama took a little heat for reversing his previous public stance to limit large and corporate donations for his first inauguration.

The shifts underscore Obama's evolving stance on changing how business is conducted in Washington. He criticized pay-for-access privileges during his first campaign, and after coming into office he pledged to have the most transparent administration in history. The president once shunned lobbyists but later gave some waivers to work for his administration. Once a vocal opponent of super political action committees — which can spend as much money as they can raise to help candidates — Obama later embraced them when faced with the mountain of cash spent by allies of his Republican campaign challengers.