Citing ‘Lawsuits And Things,’ White House Refuses To Release Logs Of When Payne Took Clients To Meet Bush

Over the weekend, the Times of London reported that Bush fundraiser and federal lobbyist, Stephen Payne, was caught on tape offering access to White House officials, including Dick Cheney or Condoleezza Rice, in exchange for “six-figure donations to the private library being set up to commemorate Bush’s presidency.”

Today, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino tried to downplay the long relationship between Payne and Bush, saying only that the President had “probably met [Payne] on a number of occasions.” When asked if the public would be allowed access to the White House visitor logs to “show whether or not” Payne had brought clients to the White House, Perino demurred:

QUESTION: And last thing — just to clear it up, then — would the White House be willing to release any visitor logs to show whether or not he was here with clients? Because he’s out there telling people…

PERINO: I’d have to check with counsel’s office. And, obviously, we’ve been down this road before with visitor logs. And there’s lawsuits and things. So I’ll have to check with (inaudible) visitors’ log.

Watch It:

Despite Perino’s claims, Payne has had a long — and public — relationship with Bush. Payne served as “George W. Bush’s personal travel aide during his father’s 1988 Presidential campaign.” Later, he bought the title of “Bush Pioneer” by raising $100,000 for Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns. More recently, Payne was appointed to the Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council and currently serves the White House as a “Senior Advance Representative.”

The full extent of Payne’s relationship with the White House may soon be known, as a Federal appeals court last Friday refused to “consider reversal of a lower court ruling last December that the White House visitor logs were public records” and thus subject to Freedom of Information Act Requests.

Even without access to the White House visitor logs, however, the photographic record demonstrates quite clearly that Payne’s relationship with the White House has given him — and quite likely his clients — close access to the President, his inner circle, and even foreign leaders.

Transcript:

QUESTION: On another subject, is the White House disappointed that this lobbyist, Stephen Payne, in on videotape suggesting that he can deliver high-level White House meetings, including with the vice president, in exchange for big contributions to the Bush library?

PERINO: I would say there’s categorically no link between any official business and the Bush library. Steve Payne was never an employee of the White House, but we do use hundreds of volunteers a year, as you know, for helping us do advance work.

And, of course, I don’t know all of the facts about that situation, but we certainly would not advocate for such behavior.

QUESTION: How close is he to the president? And has he ever brought any of his clients to the White House for meetings?

PERINO: That I don’t know. I do know that he has been a Republican fund-raiser for many years, so I believe the president has probably met him on a number of occasions. But he was never an employee of the White House, and so I don’t know particularly about any contacts that they would have had or at the White House.

QUESTION: And last thing — just to clear it up, then — would the White House be willing to release any visitor logs to show whether or not he was here with clients? Because he’s out there telling people…

(CROSSTALK)

PERINO: I’d have to check with counsel’s office. And, obviously, we’ve been down this road before with visitor logs. And there’s lawsuits and things. So I’ll have to check with (inaudible) visitors’ log.