NBC's Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd on Monday called the new Organizing for Action group launched by two of President Barack Obama's top political strategists a scheme designed for big donors to regularly meet with the president.
"This just looks bad — it looks like the White House is selling access," Todd told the Washington Free Beacon
on Monday. "It's the definition of selling access. If you believe money has a stranglehold over the entire political system this is ceding the moral high ground."
Described as a nonpartisan, tax-exempt "social welfare group" funded by donations from wealthy individuals and corporations, the organization aims to make political and legislative gains at the federal and state levels
, according to the Washington Post
OFA board members Jim Messina, who managed Obama's re-election campaign, and strategist Jon Carson have suggested $500,000 as the target for donors that include Hollywood studio executives, California energy investors, and Chicago business titans, the Post said. In return, top donors get invitations to quarterly meetings with the president.
"This is an unprecedented vehicle providing a whole new entry point for corruption by individuals and companies that may seek to buy influence with the administration," Fred Wertheimer, a Washington lawyer and reform advocate who is president of the organization Democracy 21, told the Post. "It will either lead to scandal or the appearance of scandal."
Because the group is tax-exempt, it does not have to abide by federal campaign regulations on contributions, including limits, reporting requirements, and whether White House officials can solicit money, the New York Times reported over the weekend.
White House spokesman Jay Carney has reportedly said there is no price tag to see the president
, but wouldn't specifically address the stories that donors who give $500,000 get invited to quarterly meetings with the Obama.
Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich also attacked OFA Monday
"How can a president offer special meetings for money and not think it looks like corruption?" Gingrich told Newsmax. "After Solyndra and other special deals for friends, how can the Obama team think Americans will not be suspicious of favoritism and access?"
OFA is reportedly planning a $50,000-per-person "founder's summit" March 13 at the Jefferson Hotel in Washington, D.C.
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