Organizing for Action's national chairman, Jim Messina, authored a column on CNN explaining the group will no longer accept "contributions from corporations, federal lobbyists or foreign donors." Messina went on to elaborate that the group's focus lay strictly on issue advocacy, and not on electing candidates. In spite of the article, non-partisan watchdog groups remain critical of the organization, its relationship to the White House, and its disclosure practices.
President Obama’s former campaign committee, Obama for America, was transformed into Organizing for Action earlier this year, much to the chagrin of campaign finance watchdogs and Republicans alike. Tweet it: Tweet
Organizing for Action (OFA) is now a Super PAC, privy to potentially unlimited fundraising from wealthy individuals as well as corporations. As a 501(c)4, tax-exempt, ‘independent organization,’ OFA is no longer restrained by the $2,600 individual contribution limit on campaign committees.
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the metamorphosis from campaign committee to Super PAC is the $500,000 price tag to be included in the group’s ‘national advisory board,’ as reported by the New York Times.
The board will hold quarterly meetings with the president. The group will be staffed by many campaign veterans like Jon Carson, OFA’s new executive director and National Field Director for Obama’s 2008 campaign.
According to Barack Obama’s website, the group maintains independence by not lobbying legislators on policies it supports, nor will it be “involved in any partisan political or election activity.”
These assurances, however, have not been enough to cool heated rhetoric from critics. Critics like Bob Edgar of Common Cause spoke out against the alleged practice, calling it “pay-to-play” politics. Tweet at @CommonCause: Tweet
At a press briefing Monday, White House press secretary Jay Carney denied the charges:
“Any notion that there is a set price for a meeting with the President of the United States is just wrong. As you know, Organizing for Action was set up to promote the President's public policy agenda. Therefore, as anyone would expect, the President would likely meet with their representatives to discuss his agenda. But again, any notion that there's a price for meeting with the President is simply wrong.” Tweet quote: Tweet
Carney continued by asking reporters to direct questions regarding OFA's fundraising practices to the organization itself.
Fred Werthiermer of Democracy21 criticized the group shortly after the press briefing:
“… Democracy 21 continues to assert that Organizing for Action is a national scandal waiting to happen and that President Obama should promptly shut down this unprecedented and dangerous arm of his presidency.” Tweet Quote: Tweet
Conservative Super PAC American Crossroads released a mock infomercial lampooning the $500,000 price tag.
Organizing for Action held its first major advocacy effort on February 22, known as the “Day of Action.” OFA mobilized nearly 2.2 million volunteers through various gun control rallies and awareness campaigns, while targeting key legislative districts on the issue.