Acting on a pledge to make government more transparent, Obama released the visitor logs, although he did so to settle a lawsuit seeking the records. The administration publishes the information monthly, with a three-month delay, so the latest information is from January.
The lack of a list from previous administrations makes it impossible to know whether paid advocates have more or less access than in the past.
The logs show the names of the roughly 2,600 people each day who are given a badge to enter the White House, the Old Executive Office Building, the New Executive Office Building or the vice president’s residence. The visits can be for any purpose, from meetings, group tours and state dinners to basketball with the president.
The database containing the visits lists more than 2 million visits, with 1.3 million distinct names, but includes no other information about their identities or professions.
Many of the lobbyists who appear on the visitor logs are representing organizations that support administration policies. Bill Samuel, lobbyist for the AFL-CIO, for example, has been to the White House more than 50 times since Obama took office. The logs show he met four times with former White House Chief of Staff William M. Daley and three times with Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council.
“We’re not dealing with any state secrets here,” Samuel said, noting that his organization has worked closely with the White House to persuade lawmakers to pass job-boosting legislation.
Other White House allies have visited almost as often, including Nancy Zirkin, a lobbyist for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and Laura Murphy, who represents the American Civil Liberties Union.
“The administration’s stance on lobbying may be a great applause line for people outside the Beltway but there are people here in D.C. who are lobbying on behalf of a multitude of worthy causes,” Murphy said.
Tony Podesta, brother of former Obama aide John D. Podesta, has visited 27 times. And Robert Raben, who represents many liberal causes, has been 47 times.
But lesser-known names are also among the frequent lobbyist visitors, including Tim Hannegan, an informal adviser to Obama’s 2008 campaign with clients such as Comcast and Taser International. He has been to the White House and executive buildings more than 30 times for social events or meetings.