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White House defends donor access to Obama

The White House today pushed back on accusations that donors to a pro-Obama organization can “buy” access to the president if they’re able to cough up a check for a cool half-million.

“Administration officials routinely interact with outside advocacy organizations, and this has been true in prior administrations, and it is true in this one,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney during a lengthy back-and-forth at a daily briefing with reporters.

The New York Times (as well as the L.A. Times) reported that the primary fundraising body supporting the president’s re-election –- now rebooted into an advocacy group called Organizing for Action -- will offer quarterly meetings with Obama for members of its “national advisory board.” The board is expected to be made up of donors who have given at least $500,000 towards OFA’s efforts, the Times reported.

The articles have prompted critics to allege OFA and the White House of participating in a pay-to-play scheme that offers deep-pocketed supporters a direct audience with a president who has publicly decried the influence of money in Washington.

Carney responded that members of outside groups frequently come to the White House to meet with administration officials, including the president.

“There are a variety of rules governing interaction between administration officials and outside groups, and administration officials follow those rules,” Carney said.

Carney also pointed out that Organizing for Action has said that it will disclose its donors and that -- while administration officials may appear at OFA events -- they will not be permitted to raise money for the group.