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Oprah, Denzel on List of White House Visitors

Date: Monday, November 2, 2009

Celebs Oprah Winfrey and Denzel Washington were among the mix of prominent Democratic fundraisers, and heavyweights from the financial services and high-tech industries who have visited the White House since Barack Obama took office in January. 

Winfrey, who campaigned for Obama, interviewed the first lady Feb. 17 and was on the guest list for an inaugural reception Jan. 20. Washington appears on the visitor list for two White House tours.  

The White House late Friday afternoon released a partial list – roughly 480 records – in response to questions about whether specific people visited. The White House plans to start disclosing comprehensive visitor lists in coming months, keeping its promise of transparency.      

However, the records also show that despite a campaign pledge to reduce special-interest influence on policymaking, lobbyists are getting face time with him and his aides, reports the AP. The visits included in the records released Friday include roughly eight dozen with Obama. 

Among the guests: 

• Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. The wealthy philanthropist had a March 25 meeting with Obama in the Oval Office. The subject isn’t disclosed. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gives about $200 million a year in elementary and secondary education grants and is pressing for some of the same changes that Obama wants, such as paying teachers based on student test scores. 

• Labor leader and Obama supporter Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union. Twenty-two Stern visits to the White House are reflected in the records, including at least seven with Obama. Most of the visits with Obama were for group events; the subjects of most of his visits to other people weren’t disclosed. 

Ed Yingling, the chief executive of the American Bankers Association and a registered lobbyist. Yingling attended at least four meetings with Obama. One meeting included several bank CEOs; the subjects of the others included credit cards and housing. 

Camden Fine, chief executive of the Independent Community Bankers of America and a Washington lobbyist for the group. Fine also had at least four Obama meetings, including the ones with bank CEOs and on housing. 

• Clooney, a U.N. messenger of peace, met with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on Feb. 23 to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Sudan’s Darfur region. Clooney has said he asked Obama to appoint a full-time regional envoy to report directly to the White House. 

•  a Democratic strategist, lobbyist and former House staffer. Elmendorf, whose lobbying clients include Ford Motor Co., UnitedHealth Group and Verizon, attended a June 29 Obama reception and had at least four meetings with others at the White House complex. 


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