Last month, President Obama announced his decision to launch Organizing For Action (OFA), a lobbying operation focused on national advocacy. And on February 22, thousands of people rallied, held vigils, and campaigned sorry, raised awareness in over congressional districts, bringing this group to national attention and sparking heated controversy. Out of the loop? Heres what you need to know:
OFA is a tax-exempt "social welfare group" designed to further Obama's second-term policies: gun regulation, environmental issues, immigration policies, etc. The 501(c)(4) group has a grass-roots focus, thus is dependent on independent donations (excluding political action committees, lobbyists and foreign citizens) and active participants. Jim Messina,t will be a supporter-driven organization, as we've always been, staying true to our core principles: 'respect, empower, include.'"
Sometimes, even the resident cant do the things he (or she...fingers crossed for 2016) wants to do, and by sometimes I mean always. Bogged down by governmental policy limitations, extreme debt, and a divided legislature, OFA is Obamas way of implementing his policies without actually having to implement his polities. As the right wing prepares to pull the trigger on its casually-procured gun, the Obamas plead carpe diem, saying, inning an election wont bring about the change we seek. Its simply the chance to make that change. Watch First Lady Michelle Obamas plug:
Naturally, this kind of move doesn't come without its critics. "It just smells," says Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause. He's not alone. Here's why:
— As expected, donors receive benefits. What kind of benefits? The kind that allows donors of $500,000 or more to serve on the executive board of OFA and also sit in on select White House meetings (no room for corruption there).
— OFA doesn't comply with any of the standard regulations set up for presidential policy groups. Says Republican lawyer Robert Kelner, "[OFA] presents a rather simple loophole in the otherwise incredibly complex web of government ethics." Many other interest groups are also considered part of this "loophole" (eg. the NRA) so this argument wouldn't necessarily be a problem except for:
— OFA is run almost completely by alumni of both President Obama's White House staff and campaign team, making it look suspiciously like an extension of his administration.
Where is this Going?
In my mind, the OFA results in one of three scenarios:
— It works: The OFA succeeds in creating cleaner air, fewer acts of gun-related violence and a generation of politically active, contributing citizens. In my opinion and an ideal world, this is preferable.
— It doesn't work: Wealthy donors wield their power and corrupt the government into an elitist group of WASPs concerned only with stuffing their wallets and also their egos. That is ... no change whatsoever.
— It dies/is shut down: Critics cheer, supporters continue to hold vigils (this time for their cause), the NRA celebrates by handing out guns to children, and in a couple weeks no one cares because Obama can't be reelected anyway.
At once both admirable and questionable, the OFA offers, if not sound political backing, at least a tenacious attempt to inspire citizen-led change. And for that, we are thankful.
Intrigued? Read more about OFA here.