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Transparency update: Donors told to hand over cell phones upon entering Obama fundraisers

By Doug Powers  •  May 15, 2012 04:40 PM

**Written by Doug Powers

Why wouldn’t the Obama campaign want everybody far and wide to know what he’s telling those rich people attending his high-dollar fundraisers? You’d think Obama would welcome the use of cell phones as he lectures the greedy one-percenters about how they should be sharing the wealth, demanding a tax increase and stop being eco-hypocrites by getting rid of their planet-destroying private jets in favor of algae-powered go-karts so the video could hit the web just as fast as possible.

Or maybe that’s not what happens behind those closed doors. We may never know:

In the latest attempt to crack down on potentially embarrassing digital leaks from presidential fundraisers, President Barack Obama’s campaign has begun asking donors attending small fundraisers with the president to turn over their cell phones before entering.

Pool reporter David Nakamura of the Washington Post reported that at a $35,800 a head fundraiser at the home of Blackstone COO Hamilton “Tony” James in New York City Monday night, the 60 attendees were asked to place their phones in plastic bags by the door.

An Obama aide called the move it “standard operating procedure,” but veterans of a range of other campaigns said they’d never heard of the practice, which is common in secure White House spaces where there are concerns of espionage, but unknown in contexts in which only political secrets are discussed. The new prevalence of sophisticated audio and recording capacities in mobile devices owned by virtually anyone wealthy enough to write a check to a political campaign, however, has put a new pressure on campaigns concerned with staying on a public message.
Former aides to presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Rick Perry, and Jon Huntsman all expressed surprise at the practice, and they’ve never seen an instance where a campaign asked donors to surrender their cell phones.

The former Clinton aide called the Obama policy “absurd,” suggesting that the Obama policy is almost certainly a response to the infamous 2008 fundraiser where Obama described voters in rural Pennsylvania as “bitter.”

Another possible reason for the “check your phones at the door” policy, via Atlantic Wire:

The potential for awkward moments particularly high last night, as Obama spent the morning calling for more Wall Street regulation, released an ad calling Mitt Romney’s private equity firm a “vampire,” then entertained Wall Street guests at the home of the man who runs one of the most successful private equity firm in the business. Now we’ll never know just how awkward it got.

(h/t Ed Morrissey at Hot Air)

**Written by Doug Powers

Twitter @ThePowersThatBe

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Categories: 2012 Campaign, Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter, Media