With Barack Obama, no free lunch for visitors or staff

If you eat with President Obama (not pictured) be prepared to pay for your own meal. And if you are eating a Texas Belt Buster at Big Bob's restaurant it's going to cost you some dough. Winner of the illustrious World's Largest Hamburger contest, the burger weighs 55.12 pounds.

It is not only CEOs who go dutch when they eat with President Barack Obama. It turns out that senior staff members do, too.

Earlier this week Politico's Eamon Javers reported that when four powerful corporate leaders came to have lunch with President Obama in June, White House staffers collected their credit card numbers so the CEOs could be billed for their meals.

The executives, who dined with the President in his private dining room just off the Oval Office, were Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox Corporation; Muhtar Kent, CEO of The Coca-Cola Company; AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson; and Honeywell International CEO Dave Cote.

A new group of CEO’s came for lunch in the President’s private dining room on Friday.  The July 31 gathering included Ivan Seidenberg, CEO of Verizon and Chairman of the Business Roundtable; Mike Duke, CEO of Wal-Mart; Dan DiMicco, CEO of Nucor; and Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks.  Presumably all of them were happy to cover the cost of their meal in return for face time with the President.

Deputy Press Secretary Jennifer Psaki told Javers that, “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. This is consistent with our tough ethics rules and we will continue the practice when appropriate.”

The pay your own way policy evidently applies to White House staffers, as well. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the practice of billing presidential guests for their meals at a meeting with reporters on Friday. “I pay for my meals here. I ate lunch with the president a few days ago” and paid Gibbs said. As Gibbs often does, he ended with a quip: “I guess in Washington there really is no free lunch.”

Ms. Psaki confirmed that the pay your own way policy applies to all White House staffers who eat with the boss, not just Gibbs.

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