For CEO's, No White House Dine & Dash

Billing the CEOs

By Robert A. George
|  Thursday, Jul 30, 2009  |  Updated 7:15 PM CDT
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Blame Them For Your Empty Wallet

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Muhtar Kent, President and CEO, The Coca-Cola Company, was one of four executives charged for lunch at White House last month, according to Politico.com.

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Yes, big business has not covered itself with glory over the last several years.

Yes, it's unfair that the banks managed to screw up multiple times -- and still got bailed out to the tune of $700 billion in taxpayer money.

Yes, the U.S. automakers have been messing up for decades; they shouldn't have had one more cent in bailout money.

Yes, AIG insurance giant should have been left to rot rather than getting billions on the taxpayer dime.

But, does the White House really think that the best way to hold some of these corporate miscreants -- or, at least, their pseudo partners-in-crime -- "accountable", is, according to Politico.com,  by charging them for lunch!?!?!?!?  So it would appear:

Four of the most powerful business leaders in America arrived at the White House one day last month for lunch with President Barack Obama, sitting down in his private dining room just steps from the Oval Office.

But even for powerful CEOs, there’s no such thing as a free lunch: White House staffers collected credit card numbers for each executive and carefully billed them for the cost of the meal with the president.

The White House defended the unusual move as a way to avoid conflicts of interest. But the Bush administration didn’t charge presidential guests for meals, one former official said, and at least one etiquette expert found the whole thing unseemly – suggesting it was a serious breach of protocol.

Ya think? 

Have the Democrats gone completely bonkers in their drive to embarrass the wealthy? Conceptually, I have no real problem with wanting to "stick it to the high muckity-mucks" -- and not leave the taxpayer with the bill. But, billing businessmen and women a couple hundred bucks for lunch is silly. 

The president is going to eat lunch anyway. The cost differential to the White House (i.e., the taxpayer) of preparing lunch for two, four, or eight people is marginal at best. Divided by the couple of hundred million taxpayers, this is an infinitesimal amount!  Ya want to save the taxpayers some money?  Don't bail out businesses to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars!!!!

The only thing charging the CEOS for lunch does is make the White House -- and by extent, the American people -- look cheap. 

And conflict of interest?   

“From time to time, White House guests are asked to reimburse for their meals, the reasons include ensuring there is no conflict or appearance of a conflict,” said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki. “That is consistent with our tough ethics rules and we will continue the practice when appropriate.”  

Oh, stop it! What's more impressive for anyone -- whether you actually had lunch at the White House, or whether you did or did not pay for it?  The CEOs have already gained a "benefit" just by showing up at the White House!  After that, it's hardly sticking it to them by telling them that they have to "pay." Oh, memo to White House: Most CEOs can write that meal off as a business expense on their taxes, so the American people are left stuck with the bill anyway.  Absolutely nothing saved!!!  

Gotta wonder how far this policy extends. Did anyone check to see if Thursday's "beer summit" between the president, Prof. Henry Louis Gates and Sgt. James Crowley was switched to BYOB at the last minute?


 New York writer Robert A. George blogs at Ragged Thots. Follow him on Twitter.  

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