A scrub of more than 2.2 million entries in our new White House visitors database yields a steady stream of lobbyists with access to the Obama administration, as T.W. Farnam reports in today’s editions.
Farnam examined the visitors logs (which you can search here) to examine how often registered lobbyists are given access to the White House and surrounding executive offices. He found frequent visits by lobbyists such as Marshal Matz (lobbyist for food and agriculture interests), Bill Samuel (AFL-CIO) and Nancy Zirkin (Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights).
But the logs also capture the ordinary (and extraordinary) pulse of the presidency, from state arrival ceremonies to bowling alley tours, from presidential meetings with members of Congress to Hollywood celebrities. Below are details on some of the more interesting visits we found, and a guide to exploring the database on our site.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has made 23 White House visits since December 2009, including 11 amid intense negotiations over the federal debt ceiling in July 2011. By comparison, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has visited at least 64 times since 2009.
Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords stopped by the Old Executive Office Building last October to mark her husband Mark Kelly’s retirement from the Navy, with her mother Gloria Giffords, Vice President Biden, Pelosi, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Adm. Mark E. Ferguson, vice-chief of Naval Operations.
Oprah Winfrey has visited the White House five times (that’s two more visits than George Clooney ) since 2009, including on April 2, 2011. Winfrey visited with Michelle Obama about three weeks before hosting the first couple on her talk show, where they discussed the White House’s release of Obama’s birth certificate. “He was born here!” Michelle exclaimed.
Republicans recently pointed to a number of visits by Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen as evidence of her close ties to the Obama administration, when she made comments on CNN saying that Mitt Romney’s wife Ann “never worked a day in her life” as a stay-at-home mother.
President Obama is the first to order the release of the logs from the White House security gates, a move that the Bush administration fought in court. White House spokesman Eric Schultz said that it was done “as part of the president’s unparalleled commitment to reforming Washington.”
Other interesting tidbits:
Foreign dignitaries: According to the logs, Obama has officially received at least 15,902 visitors during state arrival ceremonies since Sept. 15, 2009. You can find guests by country by searching for the country name and “state arrival.” Mexico, for example, accounted for more than 6,500 guests.
EXPLORE THE DATABASE
What else can you find in the White House visitors logs? Here’s a quick guide to exploring the database on your own.
Names and places: The fastest way to find visits is to search for names and places. When searching for specific people, beware of false positives. For example, a search for “Ayers” will return William A Ayers, not to be confused with the former Weather Underground leader William Ayers.
Advanced search: Choose “show advanced options” to search for visits on a specific date, or by visitor’s name, meeting place, White House staffer or meeting description.
Tweet #WhiteHouseGuestsSEND US YOUR TIPS!
We’re also interested in hearing about who you find in the logs. An interesting place to start might be the list of Obama’s top campaign fundraisers or “bundlers” for 2008 and 2012. Or perhaps the lobbyists registered to sway public policy for top Washington players.
The logs have very little context for what the visits are actually about. However, you can divine some clues from who else was in the meeting. Take for example, a visit by former New Jersey governor John Corzine last year. The logs show that 30 other people were in the meeting, including top Obama fundraisers from the financial industry such as Orin Kramer of Boston Provident and Robert Wolf of UBS Americas (the get-together is described in this New York Times story from last year).