Two of President Barack Obama’s top political strategists are behind the launch of a new liberal activist organization that will be funded by seemingly unlimited donations of $50,000 or more from “Hollywood studio executives, California energy investors and Chicago business titans,” according to the Washington Post.
The move has shocked some former progressive allies of the president and represents a complete turnaround for a leader who, as candidate, once pushed for stringent campaign finance reform and strict limits on donations.
They are blasting Obama for abandon his campaign stances in favor of a group that can raise unlimited sums with limited transparency – “the very circumstances he complained about publicly in 2010 when the Supreme Court granted corporations and unions the opportunity to contribute to groups seeking to influence elections,” the Post reports.
“This is an unprecedented vehicle providing a whole new entry point for corruption by individuals and companies that may seek to buy influence with the administration,” said Fred Wertheimer, a Washington lawyer and reform advocate who is president of the organization Democracy 21, told the Post. “It will either lead to scandal or the appearance of scandal.”
“This OFA idea is a terrible example of individuals and corporations being asked to pay to get access” to administration officials, added Bob Edgar, a former Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania who heads Common Cause, referring to the new group, Organizing for Action.
Organizing for Action’s leaders insist it will be nonpartisan and steer clear of election activity. But it is already drawing up a list of plans for ads and other activities that amount to a liberal agenda of gun control, climate change legislation, same-sex marriage laws and “ballot access.” The first ads on gun control targeted only Republicans, the Post reports in an article published online Sunday.
The new organization is seeking to keep Obama’s 2012 campaign organization up and running in a type of permanent campaign that will allow the president to push his agenda on a state-by-state basis heading into the 2014 elections. The group is headed by Jim Messina, who managed Obama’s reelection campaign, has been talking with Democratic Party leaders, including those responsible for success in the 2014 midterm elections.
“Messina and Jon Carson, a leading strategist, have traveled the country meeting with members of the Obama 2012 National Finance Committee, who are being pressed back to work to find support for the new organization,” the Post reports. “In huddles with Hollywood studio executives, California energy investors and Chicago business titans, they have suggested $500,000 as a target level for OFA bundlers and that top donors get invitations to quarterly OFA board meetings attended by the president.”
A “founders summit” on March 13 includes a $50,000-per-person meeting at the Jefferson Hotel in Washington led by Messina and Carson.
A one-page memo accompanying the invitation says the OFA will help “strengthen the progressive movement and train our next generation of leaders.
It also promises to engage in “state-by-state fights” over issues such as “ballot access and marriage equality.”