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President Obama appealed to supporters and donors in a videotaped message emailed by his campaign team to millions of people Monday -- a message filmed with the president inside the White House by a crew from the Democratic National Committee, according to a White House official who responded to RCP questions about the solicitation.
The president's video is accompanied by a donor solicitation form in which supporters of the administration can check boxes donating from $5 to $700 to the Obama-Biden re-election effort. This may, or may not, constitute fundraising by a federal employee in a federal office building, a practice that is generally prohibited. Even if it is fundraising, the statutory barriers regarding the White House itself are vague.
In response to questions about whether the president and his political team had stayed safely on the legal side of the relevant statutes, White House officials made three arguments. First, they said, an open process for small donors to essentially win a raffle is not the kind of fundraising prohibited under the law -- and the president didn't make a direct appeal for donations, anyway. Second, they pointed to a longstanding advisory opinion from the Justice Department that differentiates between the residence portion of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. -- where the aide said Obama had been filmed -- and official rooms in the White House. Third, they said, Obama's approach is in keeping with the practices of his predecessors.
The office is larger and more upscale then the headquarters used for Obama's 2008 campaign. The office is located in the Prudential Plaza, overlooking Millennium Park and Lake Michigan. The Obama campaign headquarters occupies 50,000 square feet on a single floor, which was not identified.