No More Free Lunches At The White House


When you invite a few of the country’s top CEO’s for lunch at the White House, should they expect to pay? The Obama Administration says yes. Late last week, Obama dined with Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg, Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke, Nucor CEO Dan DiMicco, and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz in the President’s private dining room. The group discussed top political issues including health care reform and energy, and surprisingly, all of the VIP guests were saddled with their own lunch bill.

“From time to time, White House guests are asked to reimburse for their meals in order to ensure there is no conflict [of interest] or appearance of a conflict,” [White House spokeswoman Jennifer] Psaki said. “That is consistent with our tough ethics rules, and we will continue the practice when appropriate.”

This was not the case with the Bush Administration, with guest lunches compensated through the taxpayer-funded entertainment budget. first reported the new luncheon policy in June after Obama met with Xerox’s Ursula Burns, Coca-Cola’s Muhtar Kent, AT&T’s Randall Stephenson, and Honeywell International’s David Cote.

Smart political move or White House etiquette faux pas?

~Jennifer Heigl


  • Alexandria Sten says:

    I might be in the minority here, but with the Beer Gate and now with this, I think Obama’s gestures are symbolic – he is trying to convey to the media that he is not afraid to step out of previous tradition of acting ceremoniously. Media stunt or not, I like it. Hopefully, these 2 acts reflect a philosophy that will prove to carry over into his politics, and not merely a symbolic gesture of grassroots politics.

  • Craigie says:

    It is quite ironic that the same conservative pundits and radio hosts who accused the last several Presidents of selling access to the White House for a free night in the Lincoln Bedroom are now claiming that asking reimbursement for such usage is a low-class breach of etiquette. You can’t do both. Either its free or reimbursable (in part or in full).

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