One of the more acute challenges confronting President Obama’s reelection campaign is retaining donors who have grown disaffected during the first term in office. In a private memo obtained by The Huffington Post, top Obama aides offered a candid template for how they’re tackling that task.
Hoping to keep the support of a key Florida supporter, the president’s political team suggested that top White House aides give him the sense that his voice was “being heard” inside the administration.
The donor, Ed Haddock, the CEO of Full Sail University, a for-profit technical college in Orlando, was set to meet with top aide Pete Rouse, according to the memo title, though when that meeting would take place is not clear. Haddock served on the Obama for America National Finance Committee and was a “bundler” for president during his 2008 run for the office, helping raise more than $200,000. He was viewed by the memo’s author Jessica Clark, the Obama campaign’s finance director in Florida, as a key figure for the Obama campaign in that critical state.
But his support for a second run was not yet confirmed, owed likely to disagreements with administration policy. According to the memo, he he stopped being “helpful” in 2009 and is currently being courted by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.
In an attempt to keep him in the proverbial orbit, Clark suggested a bit of ego massaging. As the memo, whose authenticity was confirmed by Obama officials, read:
It is important to understand this meeting is NOT about educational student loans, though that information is below. Rather, Ed needs and wants an ongoing point of contact inside the White House to periodically give input. From his view, he is CEO of four different companies and has the ability to give business and economic ideas above and beyond the average check writer. But when he has attempted to do so—primarily on the education issue but not exclusively—there has been no way in. Indeed, he feels like the White House is hostile to outside help, especially if it comes in the form as help from business. YOU should engage Ed on his concerns and tell him you want an ongoing relationship that seeks to hear his ideas and concerns, even if in the end we don’t always agree.
The memo offers a rare window into what top aides clearly believe is a hurdle facing the president. While Obama’s road to the White House in 2008 was paved with promise, his efforts to win a second term rest, in large part, on convincing the disappointed not to jump ship.
The memo also raises legal questions set forth by the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activities — though those boundaries are foggy. The White House, after all, entertains inquiries, complaints and requests from all sorts of constituents. How those communications are passed along matters less than whether a deliberate adjustment of policy was made in exchange for additional funds. In the case of Haddock, no such adjustment appears to have been made