McCain closes door on fundraiser

May 27, 2008 8:22:03 PM PDT
John McCain has met with President Bush for the first time in almost three months -- but without reporters around. They gathered at a private home in Phoenix with GOP faithful to raise money for the Republican National Committee. An estimated 3 million dollars was donated.

McCain and Bush were seen together only briefly on an airport tarmac in the shadow of Air Force One. They shook hands and waved to reporters just before Bush left.

McCain has a delicate road to walk regarding Bush. Because the president is so unpopular, McCain must keep his distance. But he also needs Bush's proven ability to raise cash from GOP loyalists.

Barack Obama says it's no surprise that McCain wanted to meet with Bush without reporters or cameras.

News organizations for months have pressed McCain's campaign to at least allow a small group of reporters - called "poolers" in media-speak - into events where McCain typically makes a few remarks to the high-rollers donating to his White House bid.

The campaign has resisted with little to no explanation.

"There is no campaign in the history of presidential politics that is as accessible to the press as the McCain campaign. It is the prerogative of the campaign that fundraisers will remain closed," spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said Tuesday.

McCain was extraordinarily accessible during the primaries. He held town-hall style, question-and-answer sessions with voters and spent countless hours on the bus gabbing with reporters on any issue they asked about. But that has tapered off now that he's in a general-election campaign mode. And now, as then, fundraisers were considered off-limits to the general public and the media.

McCain's policy contrasts with Democratic rivals Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. While their daily interaction with reporters is more limited than McCain's, they have let the media see behind their fundraising curtains.

When Obama holds money events in a public venue, like a hotel ballroom, a print reporter is allowed in to write a report that later is distributed to other campaign media. Fundraisers at private homes are closed to reporters. Clinton also closes fundraisers held at supporters' homes, but in public places she allows either a media pool or opens the event to all reporters.

McCain's policy attracted attention Tuesday because the Arizona senator was appearing alongside President Bush at a fundraiser in Phoenix. During Bush's presidency, the media has nearly always been banned from fundraisers in private homes.

The explanation from Bush's spokeswoman was that the White House was deferring to McCain's campaign.

"Our practice has been for fundraisers that the president does, if they're at a venue like a hotel, that they are open to press," press secretary Dana Perino said. "The McCain campaign has a practice that's different, and that is that all of their fundraisers, regardless of location, are closed to the press. And so to accommodate the practices, they decided to move it to a private residence today."