Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus this week accused President Obama of committing "an apparent crime" by recording a video linked to a campaign fundraising raffle while in the White House. (Watch the video.) Demanding an investigation in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Priebus cites a criminal statute that makes it "unlawful for an individual who is an officer or employee of the federal government ... to solicit or receive a donation of money ... while in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties." Since conservatives started complaining in late June, the Obama administration has said the video, in which Obama urged supporters to buy raffle tickets for a chance to dine with him and Vice-President Biden, was perfectly legal. They cite a Carter-era ruling that the White House living quarters can be used for campaigning. Did Obama do anything wrong here?
This is a bogus complaint: It is illegal for a president to use working areas in the White House for political purposes, says Rebecca Stewart at CNN. But this video was apparently filmed in the Map Room, which has long been considered part of the White House residence. By trying to rewrite the rules to score points in the 2012 campaign, Priebus is just proving that "it's never too early to play hardball presidential politics."
"RNC maps out White House foul"
At the very least this was an ethical lapse: "The legal issues surrounding this are tricky," says Alana Goodman at Commentary. The Map Room is considered part of the residence, but Obama does conduct presidential business there. It's hard to picture Holder busting his boss over this, but it "could potentially raise ethical questions," especially since the supposedly "open and transparent" Obama campaign won't even confirm that the footage was shot in the Map Room.
"RNC calls for investigation of Obama campaign video"
Priebus is being hypocritical: Even if this was illegal — and it wasn't — Obama is doing nothing his predecessors didn't do, says Janet Shan at Hinterland Gazette. It's hypocritical of Priebus to call Obama a criminal while giving the last president, Republican George W. Bush, a pass for the campaign videos he taped in the Executive Mansion. "As usual, there are two standards in anything political in this country, one for Republicans and one for everyone else."
"RNC chairman calls for investigation into Obama filming fundraising ad in White House, but didn't former presidents George W. Bush & Bill Clinton do the same thing?"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Did the media get Ferguson wrong?
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- America's anti-feminist mega-corporations' toxic disregard for women must stop
- Keira Knightley on Laggies, relationships, and surviving your 20s
- This week I learned the surprisingly dark origins of the Nobel Prize, and more
- How did Rick Perry escape blame for the Texas Ebola outbreak?
- The U.S. is about to sell weapons to Vietnam. That's bad news for China.
- What the Middle Ages can tell us about the GOP's big charity myth
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Gamergate might be gaming sexism's Waterloo
Subscribe to the Week