Shut it down, Mr. President.
Organizing for Action, the Obama administration’s new “independent,” non-profit advocacy group, should be put out of business and its plan to schedule quarterly meetings with the President for its big contributors and fundraisers should be scrapped.
“Access to the President should never be for sale,” Common Cause said in a press release today.
It’s hard to understand how Barack Obama, who emerged as a national figure in part because he seemed determined to fix Washington’s pay-to-play political culture, could have sanctioned this fiasco. Surely he understands how hypocritical it appears for a group closely tied to him to accept six- and seven-figure donations from individuals, corporations and unions and to promise regular meetings with him to its biggest donors.
Obama understandably wants to use the millions of names in his campaign database to generate support for his policy agenda and get it enacted. And of course, activating and supporting that network of supporters will cost money.
But the people who write $500,000 checks, or raise that much money to support Organizing for Action, ultimately will want more than a photo-op in return for their investment. They’ll use their special quarterly access to suggest tangible ways in which Obama might express his gratitude for their support, with quietly-engineered government contracts, pork-barrel appropriations and all manner of other special favors.
The President’s people seem to think they head off the corruption that is guaranteed to flow from this arrangement by disclosing the names of Organizing for Action’s big donors. But they promise to release only the names of donors and to provide a general idea of how much each has given.
That won’t do. The best solution is to close down Organizing for Action and re-think how best to engage Obama’s supporters in support of his programs. The President’s re-election campaign raised more than $233 million in donations of $200 or less; he has a database with the names of several million supporters. He and the people around him are smart enough to find a way to make all that work for them without relying on big dollar donations from special interests.