WASHINGTON -- White House Press Secretary Jay Carney forcefully defended the administration's hiring of top contributors for important government posts, trotting out what most good-government groups would deem an innovative explanation.
The president, Carney said, does not discriminate against people who have raised money on his behalf.
"Being a supporter does not qualify you for a job," said Carney at Wednesday's daily press briefing. "But it also does not disqualify you."
Earlier in the day, the Center for Public Integrity put out a report noting that nearly 200 of the president's biggest donors "have landed plum government jobs and advisory posts, won federal contracts worth millions of dollars for their business interests or attended numerous elite White House meetings and social events."
That news came on the heels of a report in The New York Times, revealing that President Obama had conducted a personal, sit-down briefing with Wall Street executives around the time he announced his reelection campaign. The Huffington Post, meanwhile, obtained a private memo in which the president's campaign arm had urged White House officials to give a prominent donor a sense of access during an upcoming meeting in order to keep him and his campaign contributions in the fold.
Carney did not address the latter two items, though a senior administration official offered The Huffington Post a similar justification when pressed on the memo. In response to the first, however, Carney insisted that all business had been conducted without ethical taint.
"This administration looks for the most qualified candidate who represent Americans from all walks of life when it makes appointments," he stressed, adding that the White House had instituted "the toughest ethics standards in history including a bold commitment to transparency."
As evidence that staffing at the White House was done on a merit-based, rather than donor-based, scale, Carney pointed to his own rise inside the West Wing, saying he had never handed over large checks or bundled campaign cash.
"I didn't raise a half million dollars, I didn't raise any money and I'm standing here," he said.
He also came back to the notion that it would be unsavory to shun a specific individual simply because he or she had helped raise money on the president's behalf.
"It is not a disqualification ... to be a supporter of the president," he said.
There is, of course, earnestness to the argument that the Obama administration would disadvantage itself by not appointing or consulting with its big time fundraisers. When the White House restricted lobbyists from serving under the president, there was similar concern that the president was unilaterally cutting off access to those who had the most insight or experience in their respective fields.
But the idea that the president -- in outfitting his supporters with jobs, contracts, and invitations to social events -- is refusing to discriminate against their past contributions ignores the fact that he is doing so, in part, to secure their future contributions.