President Barack Obama, followed by Democratic National Committee Chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, waves as he leaves Air Force One. (AP Photo)
Candidate Obama in 2007/08 railed against lobbyists and influence peddlers in Washington, D.C. claiming that they have corrupted government and led to a lack of transparency and confidence in our government officials and institutions.
This is what he promised:
"No political appointees in an Obama-Biden administration will be permitted to work on regulations or contracts directly and substantially related to their prior employer for two years. And no political appointee will be able to lobby the executive branch after leaving government service during the remainder of the administration."
Well apparently Obama’s lobbying rules do not apply when former senior White House officials and campaign officials band together under the auspices of the Democratic National Committee to form a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to becoming the clearing house for White House lobbying and gate keepers for those wishing to gain access to the president and his White House.
The New York Times is reporting that former Obama officials have morphed their campaign machine into a powerful “advocacy” effort called “Organizing for Action.” The people behind this group are the who’s who in Obama’s world.
The list of former senior Obama White House officials and senior Obama campaign personnel who are intimately involved in OAF reads like the inner circle of the president’s administration and campaign:
- Debbie Wasserman Schultz — DNC Chair and current member of the U.S. House.
- Jon Carson, OAF Executive Director — headed up the White House Office of Public Engagement.
- Jim Messina, national chairman – served as the president’s 2012 campaign manager
- Stephanie Cutter, senior communications –served as Obama’s 2012 deputy campaign manager
- Robert Gibbs, senior advisor — was Obama’s chief White House spokesman.
- David Plouffe, senior advisor — was Obama’s 2008 campaign nanager and Obama White House senior advisor
The announcement and launch of OAF was done by first lady Michelle Obama in a YouTube video calling OAF, “the next phase in our movement for change.” She went on to state that OAF “have given ordinary people a place in our democratic process again.”
The organization’s first mission as a “start-up” is to raise capital to the tune of $50 million dollars. Its efforts are not geared towards donations of $1, $2 or even $10.
Big fish need only apply. The very people being targeted are the ones Obama once demonized.
The president himself said this to OAF supporters recently: “You’ll have questions about what exactly Organizing for Action will look like — and over the next few months, you will be the ones to come up with many of those answers.”
This is how The New York Times describes Organizing for Action:
“Organizing for Action has been set up as a tax-exempt ‘social welfare group.' 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.
“The goal is to harness those resources in support of Mr. Obama’s second-term policy priorities, including efforts to curb gun violence and climate change and overhaul immigration procedures.”
Sounds harmless enough?
The “marketing materials” for OFA entices donors with promises to access to the president and White House officials at the White House. The New York Times is reporting that this is what high-level donors to OFA are promised:
“Giving or raising $500,000 or more puts donors on a national advisory board for Mr. Obama’s group and the privilege of attending quarterly meetings with the president, along with other meetings at the White House.”
You do not need a law degree to understand that a third-party organization that promises access to the president and high government officials for a donation of money or anything of value is immoral, unethical and illegal.
The message of OAF is clear — if you are rich or a big corporation and you want to “petition” your president and his White House then you should donate to OAF because such access is guaranteed for the measly sum of half a million dollars.
OAF tactics of shakedown and extortion is stereotypical of a Chicago-style political machine operation. This arm of the Democratic National Committee is every bit as clandestine and dangerous as “CREEP” — the Committee to Re-Elect the President back in the days of Richard Nixon during the 1972 election.
The White House is complicit in this “independent” groups’ illegal and unethical activity. There is no way the White House did not agree to the methods and operations of a group that acts as a shadow White House West Wing masquerading as a not-for-profit issue advocacy group.
In light of The New York Times article blowing the whistle on this White House shakedown effort, left leaning watchdog groups are calling for the president to shut down OAF.
This is what Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, had to say about OAF:
“If President Obama is serious about his often-expressed desire to rein in big money in politics, he should shut down Organizing for Action and disavow any plan to schedule regular meetings with its major donors . . . access to the president should never be for sale.”
The former Democratic congressman went on to make the case for OAF to disband — a case that I could not have made any better:
“With its reported promise of quarterly presidential meetings for donors and ‘bundlers’ who raise $500,000, Organizing For Action apparently intends to extend and deepen the pay-to-play Washington culture that Barack Obama came to prominence pledging to end. The White House’s suggestion this week that this group will somehow be independent is laughable.
“Organizing for Action’s organizers has indicated the group will accept unlimited donations from individuals and corporations alike. The group has promised to disclose its donors but will release only limited information about their gifts, placing their donations within dollar ranges rather than revealing specific amounts.
“President Obama’s backers should go back to the drawing board. The president may feel that he needs help from an advocacy organization outside the White House and the Democratic Party, but any group he creates should be fundamentally different from what we now see in Organizing for Action.
“At a minimum, any outside advocacy organization tied to the president should live by the ground rules the president has adopted for his administration and the anti-corruption laws that apply to political parties. That means any group associated with the president should refuse all donations from lobbyists, corporations and unions, provide complete and prompt disclosure of all its donors and the amounts they contribute, and impose an annual limit of $32,400 on the amount of money it will accept from any individual or political action committee.”
I would take this even further:
- The U.S. Justice Department/F.B.I. should open an immediate investigation into the unethical fundraising activities of OAF.
- The IRS should open an immediate investigation into the “not for profit” 501 c4 status of OAF.
- The White House Counsel should institute an immediate investigation into the activities of President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and White House staff with regard to OAF fundraising and coordination.
- The House Ethics Committee should open an immediate investigation into the activities of Rep. Wasserman Schultz and her OAF interaction as a member and as DNC chair.
I join with Common Cause and others who call for OAF to shut down ASAP and for those responsible for the selling of the presidency to be brought to justice.
Bradley A. Blakeman served as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-04. He is currently a professor of Politics and Public Policy at Georgetown University and a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion. Read more reports from Bradley Blakeman — Click Here Now.
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