Friday is the deadline to enter a contest to win dinner with Barack Obama, part of his campaign's effort to court the small-time donors he may or may not be lacking. It sounds like a fun get-together: The Obama campaign wants to fly four people out to eat with the president, whose campaign website he's interested in "your story and your ideas." But we've been here before with a similar contest back in June, and the Obama campaign still hasn't followed through with the winners to that. The president is really stacking up the dinner-date IOUs.
So far, the campaign hasn't shown it's very good at organizing these things. As the blog Obamafoodarama points out, the campaign still hasn't announced the winners of a similar contest over the summer, Dinner with Barack and Joe, which the campaign flogged with a YouTube video and everything. The website that was to announce that contest's winners, now redirects to an entry page for the new contest. Oddly, the page to enter the initial Dinner with Barack and Joe contest is still active.
We're still waiting for a response from the Obama campaign on the issue, but Obamafoodarama got ahold of spokeswoman Katie Hogan earlier this month and learned that winners for that contest had been chosen, but not notified, and that neither dinner had actually been scheduled. It could be that the campaign is keeping a low profile on the Dinner with Barack and Joe contest because of some questions raised after it launched. At the time, Real Clear Politics suggested that the fact that the YouTube video (below) was shot in the White House, it violated rules prohibiting fundraising by federal employees, in federal buildings. The Obama campaign defended the video at the time, and it's still up on the site. Here's RCP's recap of the campaign's defense:
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 video in question, promoting Dinner with Barack and Joe:
While the campaign defended the video, and didn't take it down, it didn't repeat the move either. The latest contest doesn't include a video or any promotion, really, other than the standard announcements on the campaign website and reminder messages to those on the campaign email list. One, from Michelle Obama, has advice for prospective dinner guests:
Not everyone knows how to prepare for a dinner like this. As someone who's eaten countless meals with my husband, I want to tell you the one thing to do if you're selected to join him...
Just relax. Barack wants this dinner to be fun, and he really loves getting to know supporters like you.
I hope you'll take him up on it before Friday's deadline.
But if the past is any indication, you don't have to start rehearsing conversation topics or picking out an outfit for some time to come.