The White House charged four corporate CEOs for lunch last month when they met with President Obama to discuss a wide range of economic issues including healthcare, education, taxes, corporate governance, and the economic recovery.
The CEOs were Ursula Burns of Xerox, Muhtar Kent of Coca-Cola, Randall Stephenson of AT&T, and Dave Cote of Honeywell International.
White House staffers asked for the credit card numbers of all four and then charged them for the cost of the meal, Politico reports.
The White House is trying to prevent conflicts of interest, administration officials said.
The Bush administration didn’t charge White House visitors for meals, a former official told Politico. However, another one said Bush was so worried about appearing too close with corporate fat cats that the official can’t remember a single time Bush lunched with CEOs at the White House.
It probably wouldn’t hurt Obama’s image to be seen discussing economic issues with CEOs during a recession. But the gathering didn’t appear on Obama’s public schedule, and the press mostly ignored it.
The White House is keeping in close touch with top business leaders to help the economy rebound.
Some say there was no need for the White House to make the CEOs pay.
“Have the Democrats gone completely bonkers in their drive to embarrass the wealthy?” Robert George writes on NBCChicago.com.
“Conceptually, I have no real problem with wanting to ‘stick it to the high muckity-mucks’ — and not leave the taxpayer with the bill. But, billing businessmen and women a couple hundred bucks for lunch is silly.”
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