(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden promised greater transparency about who was visiting his White House, yet a review of visitor logs from his first two years in office reveals notable gaps in disclosure.
The records detail more than 300,000 visitors from January 2021 through February 2023, including lawmakers such as West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, whose vote Biden was seeking for legislation, and business titans like JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon.
However, a Bloomberg News analysis of the data found duplications, anomalies and missing names. The results raise questions about the accuracy and completeness of the logs that record business meetings, social functions and receptions with Biden and other officials at the White House complex, which includes adjacent office buildings.
For example, the records posted on the White House website show just five visits from Nancy Pelosi when she was House Speaker, despite at least 20 known instances when she was there. And Biden’s former Chief of Staff Ron Klain, whose job would have made him one of the most sought-after people in the complex, is shown hosting only six visitors over two years.
A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said some of the gaps could be explained by the practice of staffers signing in visitors for their bosses for logistical reasons.
One of the top visitors to Biden was Terri McCullough, Pelosi’s chief of staff, who is recorded as having visited Biden 19 times. But McCullough has rarely visited without Pelosi and typically signed in the delegation, an official familiar with the practice said.
Altogether, the custom at least partially shrouds who is meeting with whom.
The White House argues that Biden’s release of tax returns, reinstatement of regular press briefings and the publishing of logs all demonstrate a commitment to disclosure. Former President Barack Obama was the first to voluntarily disclose White House visitors; a practice his successor, Donald Trump, discontinued.
“President Biden is proud to lead the most transparent administration in American history,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a written statement. The statement didn’t directly address the gaps in the data.
Pelosi isn’t the only one with missing visits. While French Ambassador Philippe Etienne, who has since left the role, recorded 37 visits over two years, another key envoy — UK Ambassador Karen Pierce — recorded none, which the US and UK both said was incorrect, though some visits appear to have been recorded with her name and a different middle initial. Canada’s ambassador, Kirsten Hillman, is reported to have visited 17 times; the embassy said she had visited over 30 times.
However flawed, the data do offer a snapshot of top visitors to Biden’s administration, including business figures such as Dimon and Micron Technology Inc. CEO Sanjay Mehrotra, who have each visited the White House at least 16 times in Biden’s tenure. The data also paint a picture of a president carefully cultivating political constituencies as he prepares to seek reelection as the oldest incumbent in US history.
More than 40,000 people are recorded to have visited Biden himself, the majority of whom appear just once. Many of the Biden entries are for large gatherings the president attended, where he typically doesn’t personally greet each attendee.
Visits by business leaders reflect Biden’s push to pass flagship legislation — such as a semiconductor subsidy bill aimed at boosting US chip manufacturing. Micron’s Mehrotra visited 16 times, including three times with Biden. Intel Corp. CEO Patrick Gelsinger visited the White House eight times, including three with Biden.
Sixteen of the top 20 visitors to Biden himself are Democratic representatives and senators, including Manchin, a moderate who delayed and ultimately scuttled the president’s then-flagship policy bill before helping pass a heavily revised version, the Inflation Reduction Act. Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema — another ally famous for breaking ranks — was also a top visitor.
In total, over a dozen Democratic senators have visited at least 10 times. Delaware’s Chris Coons — a top Biden proxy — led the way, followed by Vermont’s since-retired Patrick Leahy.
The top six most frequent House members to visit Biden at the White House were Democrats Barbara Lee, Mark Takano, Jerry Nadler, Pramila Jayapal, Sheila Jackson Lee and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, according to the data.
A pair of moderate senators were the most frequent Republican visitors: Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Maine’s Susan Collins. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is recorded as having visited once during the period. Representative Kevin McCarthy paid four visits during the period through February, three times as minority leader and once as speaker.
Among business figures, three of Dimon’s 16 visits were at events that included Biden, while Bank of America Chief Executive Brian Moynihan recorded four visits, all with Biden. Jane Fraser, CEO of Citigroup Inc., visited eight times, including one with Biden. Citadel’s Ken Griffin, a prominent GOP donor, visited once in late 2022 for a holiday party.
Other visits to the White House complex illustrate the administration’s attention to foreign policy. Aside from people such as sign language interpreters, military band members and administration officials, the most frequently recorded White House guest is Michael Herzog, Israel’s ambassador to the US, who has 80 recorded visits. The American ambassador to Israel had 27.
Herzog was also the most frequent visitor to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, with 20 sessions recorded. The European Union and Saudi envoys were Sullivan’s next most frequent recorded guests, with seven each.
The White House says its disclosures include certain exceptions, such as records that would threaten national security or “purely personal guests of the First and Second families.”
--With assistance from Katherine Doherty, Jade Khatib and Eugene Reznik.
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.