We predicted that Organizing for Action, the advocacy group that evolved out of the 2012 Obama campaign's supporter list, would cave on a policy of letting monied interests meet with the President. Today, it did — but only by amending its fundraising policies, not by ending the promise of a White House audience. The self-identified "most transparent administration in history" just got a tiny bit more transparent.
In a subtlety-laden opinion piece posted to CNN.com today, Jim Messina, Obama's 2012 campaign manager and now chairman of Organizing for Action (OFA), outlined the amendments to the group's plans. Here's what has changed and what hasn't in response to critiques, in Messina's words.
"Organizing for Action is an issue advocacy group, not an electoral one. We'll mobilize to support the president's agenda, but we won't do so on behalf of political candidates."
Critics attacked OFA for organizing as a 501(c)(4) under IRS code, allowing it to call for political action in the "promotion of social welfare." (A number of other organizations, on both sides of the political spectrum are similarly instantiated.) What Messina does in the passage above is underline that point. It's clear that OFA will mobilize in opposition to particular elected officials; it already has. The difference is in campaigns themselves. There's a fine legal line between attacking a candidate for office directly and saturating his district with TV ads and mail that harshly criticize an issue on which he's taken a positive stand. Of course, 501(c)(4)s can do the latter, and Messina doesn't rule it out.