Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Monday attacked a new group backing President Barack Obama’s agenda — saying that giving top donors access to the president in return smacked of corruption.
“How can a president offer special meetings for money and not think it looks like corruption?” the former presidential candidate tells Newsmax. “After Solyndra and other special deals for friends, how can the Obama team think Americans will not be suspicious of favoritism and access?”
The new group, Organizing for Action, is a new liberal activist organization to be financed by apparently unlimited donations of $50,000 or more. The group is headed by two of Obama’s top political strategists, Jim Messina and Jon Carson.
The goal is to raise at least $50 million, which could easily rank the group among Washington’s top lobbying operations, The New York Times reported over the weekend.
Because the group is tax-exempt, it does not have to abide by federal campaign regulations on contributions — including limits, whether White House officials can solicit them and reporting requirements, The Times reports.
Donors giving or pledging $500,000 or more, however, would be placed on a national advisory board and would be able to attend quarterly meetings with the president, as well as other meetings at the White House, The Times reports.
These demands on Obama’s top donors and bundlers come as many are seeking appointments to administration jobs or ambassadorships.
The move shocked some former progressive allies of Obama and represents a complete about-face for the president, who, as candidate, once pushed for stringent campaign finance reform and strict limits on donations.
“It just smells,” Bob Edgar, the president of Common Cause, told The Times. The group advocates tighter regulation of campaign money. “The president is setting a very bad model setting up this organization.”
Meanwhile, Obama administration officials tried on Monday to beat back accusations that such well-heeled donors were buying access to the White House.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said there was nothing new or unusual about Obama meeting with people and groups who support his agenda.
Administration officials, he said, may attend events for Organizing for Action, but won't be raising money.
But Carney isn't specifically disputing reports that donors who give or raise $500,000 will be invited to quarterly meetings with Obama.
The group has said its purpose is to rally support for Obama's policy agenda — which include gun control and immigration — not to support or oppose candidates.
But Organizing for Action last Friday spent $100,000 for online ads targeting 13 GOP legislators who oppose Obama’s plan to expand background checks to all gun buyers.
The ads were part of the group’s so-called national mobilization day, with OFA sponsoring more than 100 events in 80 or more congressional districts, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Among the legislators targeted in the ads were California Reps. Jeff Denham, Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, Gary G. Miller, David Valadao, the newspaper reported.
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