Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette
President Barack Obama’s campaign organization, “Obama for America” (OFA), is being reinvented as as a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt “social welfare group” that is not subject to federal contribution limits, laws that bar White House officials from soliciting contributions, or the stringent reporting requirements for campaigns. The goal is to raise $50 million support of Mr. Obama’s second-term policy priorities, including efforts to curb gun violence and climate change and overhaul immigration procedures. Much like the alleged “grassroots” organizations, The Tea Party and Freedom Works, the new organization, now known as “Organizing for Action” (still OFA, so as not to confuse Obama supports), will derive most of its budget from a select group of donors who will each contribute or raise $500,000 or more. Sounds harmless? But wait, there’s more, as reported in The New York Times
But those contributions will also translate into access, according to donors courted by the president’s aides. Next month, Organizing for Action will hold a “founders summit” at a hotel near the White House, where donors paying $50,000 each will mingle with Mr. Obama’s former campaign manager, Jim Messina, and Mr. Carson, who previously led the White House Office of Public Engagement.
Giving or raising $500,000 or more puts donors on a national advisory board for Mr. Obama’s group and the privilege of attending quarterly meetings with the president, along with other meetings at the White House. Moreover, the new cash demands on Mr. Obama’s top donors and bundlers come as many of them are angling for appointments to administration jobs or ambassadorships. [..]
Many traditional advocacy organizations, including the Sierra Club and the National Rifle Association, are set up as social welfare groups, or 501(c)(4)’s in tax parlance. But unlike those groups, Organizing for Action appears to be an extension of the administration, stocked with alumni of Mr. Obama’s White House and campaign teams and devoted solely to the president’s second-term agenda.
The new OFA, which would be among the largest lobbying groups in Washington, will supposedly stay out of electoral politics, advocating only for progressive issues which as the article notes may be easier said than done as the 2014 midterm elections near. It’s already drawing fire from Democrats and watch dog groups that are accusing the group of selling access to President Barack Obama. Cole Leystra, executive director of former Sen. Russ Feingold’s Progressives United group said in a blog post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…
(I)t was exactly “what selling access looks like.”
“It’s embarrassing that the largest grassroots organization in history would abandon its own beliefs,” wrote Leystra.
“Organizing for Action should embrace its base of grassroots donors as a model of participatory democracy, not shun them in the dash to rake in huge contributions from a wealthy and powerful few,” he added. “We cannot return to the days of soft money — when unlimited corporate contributions blurred the differences between the two political parties, and resulted in policies that slammed average working families while rewarding Wall Street.”
In an interview with Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh, the president of the watch dog group Common Cause, Bob Edgar raised the main objections to the new and “improved” OFA:
The watchdog group Common Cause called on President Obama on Tuesday to shut down the nonprofit spinoff of his campaign committee, saying that the group effectively puts access to the president up “for sale.”
“If President Obama is serious about his often-expressed desire to rein in big money in politics, he should shut down Organizing for Action and disavow any plan to schedule regular meetings with its major donors,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause. “Access to the President should never be for sale.”
Apparently Pres. Obama thinks that since the Koch Brothers and Pete Peterson can get away with influencing and misinforming voters with massive media campaigns and its paid shills on every talk show spouting the company line, so can he. Don’t be fooled, these groups are all the same: certainly not “grass roots” and definitely not for the people, unless they’re the rich ones.