WILSON: Obama morphing campaign committee into issue action group

Posted: Jan. 18, 2013 11:24 am Updated: Nov. 28, 2014 9:18 pm

Fresh off the 2012 election cycle, where political action committees flooded the airwaves with twisted -- or at least carefully selected -- "facts" and attack ads, President Barack Obama is converting his own political organization into a nonprofit group that will keep operating to drum up support for the president's priorities.

"If we can take the enthusiasm and passion that people showed throughout the campaign and channel it into the work ahead of us, we will be unstoppable," Obama's former campaign manager, Jim Messina, told the Los Angels Times.

According to Messina and other members of Obama's campaign committee, the organization will be converted into a nonprofit group called Organizing for Action. It will continue to accept corporate dollars and spend that money shaping national perceptions on top issues or bringing pressure to bear on those opposed to Obama's agenda.

This is not a "super PAC" because it is not operated by a third-party, its donor list will be disclosed and it is not going to be used to promote anyone's election. It is a new political animal.

Obama's campaign aides are expected to discuss the group at a conference today, telling how their new effort will be on behalf of the president's legacy instead of his election.

Barack Obama has had a love/hate relationship with campaign entities.

During his 2008 campaign, Obama brought grass roots campaigning into the computer age. He announced his run for the White House with a message sent to millions of supporters through text messages or email. He used forums on MySpace and Facebook. His database eventually contained up to 13 million contacts who could be contacted with more donation requests or updates on regional rallies or the need for campaign volunteers.

Obama's campaign site had a donation function that raised an unprecedented $650 million from individuals during that first presidential campaign. In addition, the campaign apparatus coordinated with the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and at least 18 state Democratic committees on joint fund raising that split tens of millions of dollars.

On the flip side, Obama was outspoken in that first campaign against super PACs, which could raise and spend unlimited funds to support or oppose candidates. Yet he later signed off on the creation of super PACs by Democrats.

With the creation of his own nonprofit action committee, Obama once more is making history.

That does not mean his move is welcomed by all Democrats.

Many of Obama's supporters had expected that he would fold his massive campaign framework into the DNC, where it could be used on party building. By creating a nonprofit group, Obama will be protecting his own interests and burnishing his own brand and legacy. Organizing for Action won't be electioneering for fellow Democrats in the midterm election, owing to its nonprofit status.

It remains to be seen whether the new entity will "upend the party's power structure" as some Democrats fear.

Republicans will be watching closely, too, learning from any successes or mistakes made by the Obama team and hoping that the next president is a Republican who will have the same opportunity to create a perpetuating agenda support entity.





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