Hacked internal emails from the Democratic National Committee show fundraising officials acted like gatekeepers for access to President Barack Obama and other top officials — brokering meetings to woo big-money donors, reports say.
According to The Washington Post
, the leaked emails, posted by Wikileaks, show how one party staffer reached out to Tennessee donor Roy Cockrum in May with an offer to attend a roundtable discussion with Obama — and that he responded with an additional $33,400.
He was later assigned a place across the table from Obama.
According to the Post, the chance to build the May roundtable around the president set off a race inside the DNC finance office to recruit new donors.
"Have at it with POTUS. Prefer at a hotel. No PACs and no lobbyists," Finance Director Jordan Kaplan, who oversees DNC fundraising, wrote to one of his deputies, Alexandra Shapiro, adding: "This will probably be our only event in May. Lot of eyes on this one."
"Wow! Really?" she responded excitedly, adding three applauding emojis.
The Post reports Shapiro then passed along the message about the event to her colleagues: "New money is the priority so if you have folks that are sitting on their max out, this may be a way to get them in," she wrote.
But before the invite was sent, a lawyer at Perkins Coie, the DNC's outside firm, cautioned:
"Let's remove the word round table on page 2 at the top ('$33,400 — Round table discussion guest')," Ruthzee Louijeune emailed Scott Comers, the DNC's finance chief of staff.
"As you know, WH policy restricts the use of language that gives the appearance that contributors can pay for policy access to the president."
reports that at least two former U.S. ambassadors called the DNC to talk about personal meetings with the president, citing audio recordings of the calls included in the leaks.
One is heard on a recording from May for then-DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz seeking to confirm plans to attend a "small dinner" with Obama. Another has a staffer call DNC fundraising officials for tickets to a St. Patrick's Day event with the president.
Kaplan, who is the author of hundreds of the leaked emails, tells ABC News he's been "embarrassed" to see the internal communications exposed.
"It was conversation we were having amongst our team, and again, I'm sorry people have read them, and I'm embarrassed it's out there," he said.
ABC News reports if found among the emails detailed personal information about many of the party's wealthy supporters, including one file, titled "Big Spreadsheet of All Things," listing every single donation made to the party, to Hillary Clinton and to Obama, and details about each event where money was raised.
According to the Post, a May email showed how a DNC finance staffer asked whether the conglomerate Honeywell could get a hotel room in Philadelphia for a $60,000 donation to the host committee.
"This is $60k we definitely wouldn't get otherwise and Honeywell is the biggest PAC contributor in the country," she wrote, adding: "They're definitely a bit pissy about our PAC policy flip flop and that offering this gesture would definitely help our relationships with them for later in the election cycle and for years to come."
But some Democratic fundraisers don't think the emails show anything the general public hasn't seen before — from both parties.
"If you can show me in the past 20 years where that has not taken place, I want to see it," John Cordisco, chairman of the Bucks County, Pa., Democratic Committee, tells ABC News.
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