President Barack Obama on Friday announced that the remnants of his campaign organization will be reborn as a new political group called Organizing for Action, which will be able to accept unlimited donations.
“Together, we’ve made our communities stronger, we’ve fought for historic legislation, and we’ve brought more people than ever before into the political process,” Obama wrote in an email to supporters. “Organizing for Action will be a permanent commitment to this mission.”
News of the move was broken by The Los Angeles Times on Thursday, which reported that Organizing for Action would be set up as a 501(c)4 “social welfare” nonprofit organization, and that an official launch was set for Sunday, when thousands of former campaign staff and volunteers are expected to attend a daylong “Obama Campaign Legacy Conference” in Washington D.C. Obama will take the oath of office for his second term the same day.
In his email Friday, Obama said Organizing for Action plans to maintain and develop the campaign’s volunteer networks, and mobilize support for legislation.
“Organizing for Action will also play an active role in fighting for the kind of change we want to see from Washington, mobilizing around and speaking out in support of important legislation,” the President wrote. “We’ve got to keep working on growing the economy from the middle out, along with making meaningful progress on the issues we care about — immigration reform, climate change, balanced deficit reduction, reducing gun violence, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. I’m not going to be able to take them on without you.”
As a 501(c)4, Organizing for Action will be organized under the same section of the tax code as the so called “dark money” organizations which raised and spent millions of anonymous dollars mostly supporting Republicans in the 2012 election, and which have been vilified by Democrats, progressives, and campaign finance reform advocates. The groups can raise unlimited sums of money, and do not have to disclose their donors. According to “a senior Democrat close to the White House” who spoke with Buzzfeed, however, Organizing for Action will disclose all its donors, despite not being required to do so.
At the same time, according to the Associated Press, Organizing for Action will accept money from corporations, though not from lobbyists or political action committees. The decision to accept corporate money has already prompted concerns from some advocates.
“Anyone who says that [corporate] money isn’t given with the intent to influence is either ignorant or lying,” Adam Green, cofounder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, told TPM. “They shouldn’t take any money from corporate interests.”
Many familiar Obama faces will work for or with the new organization. According to Politico, Obama’s 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina will serve as the national chairman of the new group:
The group’s board will include Google CEO Eric Schmidt and a host of former Obama staffers, an Obama campaign aide said Friday. Along with Messina will be Obama campaign and White House alumni Stephanie Cutter, Robert Gibbs, Jennifer O’Malley-Dillon and Julianna Smoot. Senior adviser David Plouffe will also join when he leaves the White House later this month.
In a separate email to Obama supporters sent Friday, Jon Carson, the current director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, identified himself a the executive director of Organizing for Action. Carson will reportedly be leaving the White House for the position.
“Over the next four years, we’ve got an incredible opportunity to keep moving this country forward,” Carson wrote. “So locally and nationally, OFA will fight for our shared values on issues like immigration reform, climate change, gun violence, balanced deficit reduction, and more.”
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com