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President Obama is less skilled than Presidents Clinton and Bush when it comes to buttering up campaign donors. Is this a good thing?

As the Washington fund-raiser sees it, the White House social secretary must spend the first year of an Administration saying, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.’ Instead, the fund-raiser says, Obama’s first social secretary, Desirée Rogers—a stylish Harvard Business School graduate and a friend from Chicago—made some donors feel unwelcome. Anita McBride, the chief of staff to Laura Bush, says, ‘It’s always a very delicate balance at the White House. Do donors think they are buying favors or access? You have to be very conscious of how you use the trappings of the White House. But you can go too far in the other direction, too. Donors are called on to do a lot. It doesn’t take a lot to say thank you.’ One of the simplest ways, she notes, is to provide donors with ‘grip-and-grin’ photographs with the President. ‘It doesn’t require a lot of effort on anyone’s part, but there’s been a reluctance to do it’ in the Obama White House. ‘That can produce some hurt feelings.’
Big donors were particularly offended by Obama’s reluctance to pose with them for photographs at the first White House Christmas and Hanukkah parties. Obama agreed to pose with members of the White House press corps, but not with donors, because, a former adviser says, ‘he didn’t want to have to stand there for fourteen parties in a row.’ This decision continues to provoke disbelief from some Democratic fund-raisers. ‘It’s as easy as falling off a log!’ one says. ‘They just want a picture of themselves with the President that they can hang on the bathroom wall, so that their friends can see it when they take a piss.’ Another says, ‘Oh, my God—the pictures, the fucking pictures!’ (In 2010, the photograph policy was reversed; Rogers left the Administration that year.)

"Schmooze or Lose." — Jane Mayer, The New Yorker
More from Mayer

President Obama is less skilled than Presidents Clinton and Bush when it comes to buttering up campaign donors. Is this a good thing?

As the Washington fund-raiser sees it, the White House social secretary must spend the first year of an Administration saying, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.’ Instead, the fund-raiser says, Obama’s first social secretary, Desirée Rogers—a stylish Harvard Business School graduate and a friend from Chicago—made some donors feel unwelcome. Anita McBride, the chief of staff to Laura Bush, says, ‘It’s always a very delicate balance at the White House. Do donors think they are buying favors or access? You have to be very conscious of how you use the trappings of the White House. But you can go too far in the other direction, too. Donors are called on to do a lot. It doesn’t take a lot to say thank you.’ One of the simplest ways, she notes, is to provide donors with ‘grip-and-grin’ photographs with the President. ‘It doesn’t require a lot of effort on anyone’s part, but there’s been a reluctance to do it’ in the Obama White House. ‘That can produce some hurt feelings.’

Big donors were particularly offended by Obama’s reluctance to pose with them for photographs at the first White House Christmas and Hanukkah parties. Obama agreed to pose with members of the White House press corps, but not with donors, because, a former adviser says, ‘he didn’t want to have to stand there for fourteen parties in a row.’ This decision continues to provoke disbelief from some Democratic fund-raisers. ‘It’s as easy as falling off a log!’ one says. ‘They just want a picture of themselves with the President that they can hang on the bathroom wall, so that their friends can see it when they take a piss.’ Another says, ‘Oh, my God—the pictures, the fucking pictures!’ (In 2010, the photograph policy was reversed; Rogers left the Administration that year.)

"Schmooze or Lose." — Jane Mayer, The New Yorker

More from Mayer

Chronicling a four-decade fight over campaign finance, and how American politics is fueled by secret spending.

For decades, the campaign finance wars have pitted two ideological foes against each other: one side clamoring to dam the flow while the other seeks to open the floodgates. The self-styled good-government types believe that unregulated political money inherently corrupts. A healthy democracy, they say, needs robust regulation—clear disclosure, tough limits on campaign spending and donations, and publicly financed presidential and congressional elections. The dean of this movement is 73-year-old Fred Wertheimer, the former president of the advocacy outfit Common Cause, who now runs the reform group Democracy 21.
On the other side are conservatives and libertarians who consider laws regulating political money an assault on free markets and free speech. They want to deregulate campaign finance—knock down spending and giving limits and roll back disclosure laws. Their leaders include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), conservative lawyer James Bopp Jr., and former FEC commissioner Brad Smith, who now chairs the Center for Competitive Politics, which fights campaign finance regulation.

"Follow the Dark Money." — Andy Kroll, Mother Jones
More from Mother Jones

Chronicling a four-decade fight over campaign finance, and how American politics is fueled by secret spending.

For decades, the campaign finance wars have pitted two ideological foes against each other: one side clamoring to dam the flow while the other seeks to open the floodgates. The self-styled good-government types believe that unregulated political money inherently corrupts. A healthy democracy, they say, needs robust regulation—clear disclosure, tough limits on campaign spending and donations, and publicly financed presidential and congressional elections. The dean of this movement is 73-year-old Fred Wertheimer, the former president of the advocacy outfit Common Cause, who now runs the reform group Democracy 21.

On the other side are conservatives and libertarians who consider laws regulating political money an assault on free markets and free speech. They want to deregulate campaign finance—knock down spending and giving limits and roll back disclosure laws. Their leaders include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), conservative lawyer James Bopp Jr., and former FEC commissioner Brad Smith, who now chairs the Center for Competitive Politics, which fights campaign finance regulation.

"Follow the Dark Money." — Andy Kroll, Mother Jones

More from Mother Jones

How the Supreme Court dismantled campaign-finance reform—and how government missteps in the Citizens United case inadvertently aided in its undoing:

Alito wanted to push Stewart down a slippery slope. Since McCain-Feingold forbade the broadcast of ‘electronic communications’ shortly before elections, this was a case about movies and television commercials. What else might the law regulate? ‘Do you think the Constitution required Congress to draw the line where it did, limiting this to broadcast and cable and so forth?’ Alito said. Could the law limit a corporation from ‘providing the same thing in a book? Would the Constitution permit the restriction of all those as well?’
Yes, Stewart said: ‘Those could have been applied to additional media as well.’
The Justices leaned forward.

"Money Unlimited." — Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker
More #longreads from Toobin

How the Supreme Court dismantled campaign-finance reform—and how government missteps in the Citizens United case inadvertently aided in its undoing:

Alito wanted to push Stewart down a slippery slope. Since McCain-Feingold forbade the broadcast of ‘electronic communications’ shortly before elections, this was a case about movies and television commercials. What else might the law regulate? ‘Do you think the Constitution required Congress to draw the line where it did, limiting this to broadcast and cable and so forth?’ Alito said. Could the law limit a corporation from ‘providing the same thing in a book? Would the Constitution permit the restriction of all those as well?’

Yes, Stewart said: ‘Those could have been applied to additional media as well.’

The Justices leaned forward.

"Money Unlimited." — Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker

More #longreads from Toobin