Hit & Run

White House Visitor Logs Show Barack Obama Has Spent More Time With George Clooney Than DEA Chief Michele Leonhart


Investor Warren Buffett and actor George Clooney have logged more face time with President Barack Obama than the person tasked with executing the President's war on drugs, White House visitor records show.

Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator Michelle M Leonhart has met with Obama at the White House only once, back in June 2011. Buffett meanwhile, has met with Obama at the White House four times since 2010, and Clooney has met with the President twice.

This data comes courtesy of a new searchable database built by the Washington Post that pulls information from data.gov. 

Leonhart, who served as acting DEA administrator under President George W. Bush, was renominated to that position by Obama on Feb. 2, 2010. Yet according to White House visitor logs, Leonhart did not meet with the president before or after her nomination. Instead, she met with Vice President Joe Biden's Chief of Staff Alan Hoffman on April 8, 2010, and again with Sarah Coleman, an Office of National Drug Control Policy staffer, on Feb. 10, 2010. 

So it's fair to ask: Is the White House ignoring the DEA? One former DEA staffer told Reason, "They're not paying much attention." 

Leonhart has visited the White House only three times since Obama took office and the ONDCP's office five times, which suggests she spends far less time communicating face-to-face with White House staffers than do the heads of other agencies. For instance: Rajen Anand, head of the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, has logged 14 visits to the White House; FDA Director Margaret A. Hamburg, meanwhile, has logged 69 visits to the White House—three of them with Obama.

The logs also suggest that the Obama administration is less interested in the DEA than former administrations. One former DEA staffer told Reason that former DEA Administrator Karen Tandy was at the Bush White House "all the time," and that Leonhart visited the White House more often during the final years of the Bush administration. 

When asked if the visitor logs contained the full extent of Leonhart's visits to the White House, and if Leonhart had met personally with Obama before he sent her nomination to the Senate, a DEA spokesperson told Reason, "I'm not going to get into specifics but I can tell you as Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, it is not unusual for [Leonhart] to meet with senior officials—across the government—on matters of law enforcement as often as necessary, including meetings and briefings at the White House." 

Other top staffers from the DEA have visited visited White House executive branch offices just a handful of times, according to visitor logs: DEA Chief Counsel Wendy Goggin has visited the White House once; DEA Deputy Administrator Thomas Harrigan has visited the Drug Czar's office four times; DEA Chief of Intelligence Rodney Benson has visited the ONDCP once; Preston L. Grubbs, who heads the DEA's administrative support division, and DEA CFO Frank Kalder have each met with the Office of Management and Budget once.

According to a New York Times report, the White House visitor logs do not "cover Camp David or Air Force One," and often omit politically "sensitive" meetings, such as those with potential Supreme Court nominees.