Obama sharing Twitter account with controversial campaign spin-off

March 22, 2013

President Obama, who has caused a stir by meeting with top fundraisers for a new independent spin-off of his campaign, will also be tweeting under an account controlled by the group.

Multiple outlets, including the Washington Post, reported last month that Obama might appear at quarterly meetings with Organizing for Action's top fundraisers -- something Republicans and watchdog groups criticized as the kind of pay-for-play politics that Obama has in the past decried. Facing tough questions, the White House at the time emphasized that the group, despite being an outgrowth of Obama's 2012 campaign, was independent.

But in another example of the often-blurry lines between politicians and independent outside groups, Obama has effectively begun sharing his eponymous @BarackObama Twitter account with the group, and he will continue to tweet on it, according to an Organizing for Action spokeswoman.

Organizing for Action says it now controls the account, which has nearly 29 million followers and previously served as Obama's personal and campaign account. The bio for @BarackObama says "This account is run by Organizing for Action staff. Tweets from the President are signed -bo."

Organizing for Action spokeswoman Katie Hogan confirmed that the feed will continue to feature Obama's tweets, as it did when it was run by his campaign.

"That statement still stands as it reads on the website," Hogan said.

Campaign finance law doesn't prevent Obama from raising money for or speaking to groups like Organizing for Action, but watchdog groups note that Obama has spoken out in the past against the influence of money in politics and groups like Organizing for Action that can accept unlimited contributions without having to disclose donors. (OFA has said it will voluntarily provide some donor information, though not employer and occupation data.)

They argue that the new group amounts to an unaccountable slush fund for the White House.

"The fact that President Obama’s Twitter account is being managed by Organizing for Action is one more example that shows that OFA is functioning as an unprecedented, privately funded arm of the presidency that accepts unlimited contributions from wealthy donors," said Fred Wertheimer, head of the Democracy 21 watchdog group. "OFA represents bad public policy and a terrible precedent for the future, as other federal officeholders can be expected to go down this dangerous path."

Melanie Sloan, the head of another watchdog group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said Obama might even be breaking the law.

"By outsourcing President Obama’s tweets, the White House might well be violating the Presidential Records Act, which requires preservation of presidential records," Sloan said.

Obama hasn't been tweeting from the account in recent weeks, with his last tweet coming shortly before his inauguration. On Jan. 21, he tweeted:

Organizing for Action was announced on Jan. 18, but it's not clear at what point the group took over the @BarackObama Twitter account.

Despite the criticism from people like Wertheimer, Obama hasn't backed off his support for the group. He spoke at a dinner hosted by Organizing for Action last week.

“I’ve run my last campaign,” he said. “But we’re not done with the work that led me to run in the first place, and I’m hopeful that with your continued ideas and support, your voices, that we can continue to make progress over the next several years.”

Updated at 2:38 p.m.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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