If George W. Bush had launched such a group, the coverage would be overwhelming and the criticism widespread. Last Friday, a story by Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times revealed that President Obama’s political team is trying to raise $50 million to fund the conversion of his re-election campaign into Organizing for Action, a “powerhouse” new national lobbying group.
The story said that at least half of the organization’s budget will come from a small number of well-connected donors who each raise or contribute more than $500,000. In return, those donors get a spot on a national advisory board, the right to attend quarterly meetings with the president and access to other White House meetings.
“Unlike a presidential campaign, Organizing for Action has been set up as a tax-exempt ‘social welfare group,’ ” Confessore wrote. “That means it is not bound by federal contribution limits, laws that bar White House officials from soliciting contributions or the stringent reporting requirements for campaigns. In their place, the new group will self-regulate.”
In other words, the organization will function as a de facto super PAC with little transparency. As Chris Cillizza pointed out in the Washington Post this week, the creation of Organizing for Action is no surprise. Whatever his public statements have been, Obama has exacerbated the insidious role of money in politics.
In 2008 he became the first major-party nominee to forgo public presidential campaign financing, effectively ending the system created after the Watergate scandal. Obama declared that Republicans were “masters of gaming this broken system,” but his massive advantage in fund-raising during the general election helped cement his victory over John McCain.