President Barack Obama’s campaign is attempting to crack down on the possibility of embarrassing digital leaks from presidential fundraisers. The campaign has started to ask donors who are attending small fundraisers alongside the President to hand over their new and old cell phones prior to entering.
Pool reporter David Nakamura from the Washington Post has reported that at a home fundraiser of Blackstone COO Hamilton James in New York City, which was $35,000 a head last Monday evening, the 60 attendees were made to put their cell phones in plastic bags near the door.
An Obama aide said the move was “standard operating procedure”, though veterans from some other campaigns claim to have never heard of the practice before outside of secure White House spaces where there may be espionage concerns. However, the new prevalence of very sophisticated recording and audio capacities in cellular devices, which are owned by almost anyone who is rich enough to write checks to political campaigns, has put additional pressures on campaigns that are concerned about staying on a public message.
Such fundraisers are one of the last vestiges of privacy that the President has away from the White House and they offer a rare chance for big donors to hear the world’s most powerful man give relatively unscripted remarks and to ask him questions. Former Rick Perry campaign manager Rob Johnson suggested the practice “shows just how uncomfortable the Obama team is with their message and their candidate”.