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GOP accuses Obama of illegal fundraising video

July 18, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli
(YouTube )

The Republican National Committee is charging President Obama with "an apparent crime" in connection with a contest conducted by his campaign, a sensational claim that the White House argues is completely without merit.

If this were Clue, the GOP's argument is this: Obama did it in the Map Room with the video camera.

Last month, the Obama campaign released a video (see below) featuring the president inviting his supporters to enter a raffle for a chance to have dinner with him and Vice President Joe Biden.

The video, the White House confirms, was filmed in the Map Room of the White House, and all related costs were paid by the Democratic National Committee.

RNC chairman Reince Priebus claims that the production runs afoul of a criminal statute that makes it "unlawful for an individual who is an officer or employee of the federal government ... to solicit or receive a donation of money ... while in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties."

In a letter to Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr., Priebus asks the Department of Justice "to investigate this possible criminal act by the president of the United States."

The White House says the Map Room, located on the ground level of the presidential mansion, is part of the "residence," and points to a 1979 finding by the Office of Legal Council saying that "areas within the discrete private residence area ... may therefore reasonably be seen to fall outside the reach of the statute."

The RNC counters that the room "has been used for a myriad of official functions," the first of which under Obama was the administration of a re-do of his oath of office one day after his public inauguration, when he and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. garbled the wording.

But most importantly, the White House also points out that Obama never in the video solicits a single penny in contributions. The contest, which has since ended, suggested supporters give $5 to enter, but a disclaimer noted that "no purchase, payment or contribution [is] necessary to win."

"This is a disgraceful, desperate and politically-motivated attempt at getting headlines by a Republican Party awash in special interest cash which is fighting to preserve tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires at the expense of seniors," DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse said in a statement.

A White House spokesman also provided links to paid campaign ads from past presidents filmed on the White House grounds.

The RNC's request is the latest attempt by Republicans to kick up dust over presidential fundraising. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) has asked the White House and DNC to turn over documents to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee by next week in connection to the same video.

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