Thursday, March 7, 2013

Organizing For Action Flips On Corporate Donations

The head of the nonprofit formed to take over President Barack Obama's campaign apparatus announced the organization would no longer accept corporate donations, after initially signaling it would.

In an op-ed originally posted on, Organizing for Action (OFA) chairman Jim Messina wrote that the advocacy nonprofit would also publicly disclose donors who contribute more than $250. Messina wrote that these moves were made in an effort to promote transparency.

Messina also sought to clarify the mission of OFA. He explained that nonprofit's overall goal is to support the president's second term agenda, but they will not be endorsing Democratic or any other candidates for office. "The president has always believed that special interests have undue influence over the policymaking process", he wrote, "and the mission of this organization is to rebalance the power structure."

According to an article in The Washington Post, the group will also institute a ban on donations from federal lobbyists and foreign nationals.

Campaign finance reform groups, which were critical of OFA's initial decision to accept corporate donations, met Messina's announcement with some skepticism. Washington, D.C.-based Common Cause president Bob Edgar said in a statement on the organization's website that while he is glad OFA reconsidered its initial decision, he believes there is still work to be done to make the 501(c)(4) organization more transparent.

"If Organizing for Action is serious about putting to bed public concerns that contributions buy access, it should mobilize its impressive small-donor and activist base to push for real reform to clean up Washington," Edgar said. "That means getting behind legislation like the DISCLOSE Act, supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and rein in runaway political spending, and developing a new, small-donor public funding system that lets candidates break their dependence on big money."

Democracy 21 president Fred Wertheimer was more critical saying in a press release that while the decision is appreciated, it does not "solve the fundamental problems created by President Obama’s involvement with OFA."

"OFA remains an unprecedented entity that allows individual donors and bundlers to provide unlimited amounts of money to an organization functioning as an arm of the Obama presidency," he continued.

Wertheimer is also concerned about the unlimited donations donors can make to OFA, saying that they, at minimum, create the perception that individual donors and bundlers can buy influence over the Obama administration's policies and decisions.

The administration has previously pushed back on the suggestion that donors who contribute more than $500,000 will be invited to a face-to-face meeting with Obama, denying that there is not a "price tag" on meeting the president.

Launched in January, OFA has already begun a six-figure online advertising campaign to convince Republican lawmakers to support universal background checks on gun purchases. The group has also rallied supporters to support the president's plan to replace the sequester.

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