White House officials caught out with lobbyists

The White House was accused of breaking its own transparency rules after it emerged that senior officials went to elaborate lengths to conceal back-channel discussions with lobbyists.

Jim Messina, left, is managing Obama’s re-election campaign

Aides to President Barack Obama used personal email accounts to contact pharmaceutical companies and deliberately scheduled meetings in coffee shops away from the White House in order to skirt disclosure rules, according to a Congressional report on Wednesday.

Among the most damaging findings are emails from Jim Messina – the former White House deputy chief of staff who now manages the president’s re-election campaign – to a drugs lobbyist in the days before Mr Obama’s health care reforms passed Congress in 2010.

In an email from his personal account, Mr Messina promised “I will roll [Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi] for the 4 billion” needed to fund expansion of health care coverage. Mr Messina also promised the lobbyist he would deal with a reporter who had been questioning the White House’s links with the pharmaceutical industry.

The report by the Republican-controlled oversight and investigations sub-committee also contained details of a proposed meeting between Jeffrey Smith, one of the president’s science advisers, and an executive from a technology company.

Mr Smith suggested meeting at a Caribou Coffee near the White House, explaining that meeting in his office would mean “you’d appear on an official WH Visitor List which maybe not [what] you want at this stage”.


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