NOVEMBER 13, 2008
Touting the strictest ethics rules in history, Barack Obama announced with great fanfare that lobbyists are barred from his transition team while suspiciously omitting that his coveted advisory board includes top donors who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for his presidential campaign.
This could certainly give the impression that the Obama Administration is perhaps selling influence. After all, a published news report reveals that nearly half of his transition advisory board raised tens of thousands of dollars for his presidential campaign and many others contributed the maximum individual donation allowed under federal law.
The transition team co-chairwoman, Valerie Jarrett, raised between $100,000 and $200,000 for Obama’s presidential run and four top advisory board members each bundled at least half a million dollars for the record-shattering campaign that took in more than $600 million. Among them are high-ranking executives at two major financial institutions, Citigroup ($581,216) and J.P. Morgan ($581,460).
Other well-connected and powerful members of Team Obama include a partner in a prominent lobbying firm—evidently not considered an actual lobbyist—and executives of other wealthy financial institutions whose employees were among the president elect’s biggest contributors.
Camp Obama insists the advisory board was selected based on the skill and experience of each member and not their contributions or fundraising prowess. Each one will provide critical advice to ensure a smooth transition process, according to an Obama spokesperson.
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