President Obama has crossed over to the darkest side of campaign reform with the establishment of Organizing for Action (“OFA”).
The goal of OFA “is to support ... Mr. Obama’s second-term policies, 'including' efforts to curb gun control and overhaul immigration procedures.”
The “including” (of what) comment makes me leery, along with the direct affiliation of the presidency in an unregulated fundraising organization that could easily be corrupted by the need to give special favors to large supporters. This is the first time a president has created a national organization outside of a campaign re-election group.
OFA intends to raise at least $50 million to convert Obama’s re-election campaign into a powerful national advocacy network. If it achieves its fundraising goal, OFA would become one of the largest lobby operations in Washington.
The New York Times describes it like this: “... the rebooted campaign [will not be burdened with] clear rules, [and will have] ample potential for influence-peddling and no real precedent in national politics. Unlike a presidential campaign, Organizing for Action has been set up as a tax exempt social welfare group ... it is not bound by federal contribution limits, laws that bar White House officials from soliciting contributions, or stringent reporting requirements .... “
At least half the group’s budget will be raised from donors who will contribute or raise $500,000. Big donors will have access to the president and would likely be the group to which the president doles out choice positions such as ambassadorships.
Bob Edgar of Common Cause said, “It just smells.” Edgar’s organization advocates increased campaign reform. “The president is setting a very bad model setting up this organization.” Other watchdog groups rebuked the president’s new advocacy group.
A number of Obama actions have been equally damaging to efforts to limit campaign money such as his approval of super PACs established by former aides and accepting large corporate contributions for his second inauguration. And, in his first election campaign, Obama broke a promise and opted out of public support of his election efforts.
The OFA is a grossly inappropriate organization for the president to be associated with. The president has a very powerful bully pulpit from which he can speak directly to the American people, so, he does not need additional lines of communication paid for by wealthy supporters. To raise money and treat day-to-day presidential activities while in a campaign mode is unprecedented. And to do so without regulation and supported by unlimited contributions is a travesty.
The president promised to address campaign reform before he was elected in 2008. He broke that promise and now has become a huge impediment in the efforts to decrease campaign cash influence in government.