Over the past month, Messina and Jon Carson, a leading strategist, have traveled the country meeting with members of the Obama 2012 National Finance Committee, who are being pressed back to work to find support for the new organization.
In huddles with Hollywood studio executives, California energy investors and Chicago business titans, they have suggested $500,000 as a target level for OFA bundlers and that top donors get invitations to quarterly OFA board meetings attended by the president.
The next step in converting Obama’s election apparatus to grass-roots lobbying is a “founders summit” March 13 that includes a $50,000-per-person meeting at the Jefferson hotel in Washington led by Messina and Carson. Those planning to attend said they hope the president will be part of the day’s agenda, though the White House and OFA declined to comment on that possibility.
A one-page memo accompanying the invitation lays out the goals of the new OFA: Building grass-roots support for Obama proposals on issues ranging from climate change to immigration reform to women’s health.
In addition, the memo says, the OFA will help “strengthen the progressive movement and train our next generation of leaders.”
It also promises to engage in “state-by-state fights” over issues such as “ballot access and marriage equality.”
Advocates for campaign finance reform see the organization’s goal of raising tens of millions of dollars as a new channel to allow wealthy individuals and corporations to seek favors from the administration. And they criticize Obama for abandoning reform rhetoric in favor of a group that can raise unlimited sums with limited transparency, the very circumstances he complained about publicly in 2010 when the Supreme Court granted corporations and unions the opportunity to contribute to groups seeking to influence elections.
Unlike political parties and other organizations set up to win elections, the OFA is not subject to federal election fundraising restrictions and disclosure requirements, meaning the public will have only limited opportunities to learn about its operations, including how revenue is collected and spent.
OFA officials say they have adopted a voluntary disclosure system that goes beyond that required by law and that will provide sufficient public review.