Hogan’s statement, reiterated on OFA’s Web site, contrasts with the impression left in some quarters after conversations with Messina about getting Democratic candidates access to the Obama’s campaign’s rich store of voter data, which could help any candidate target and deliver a message.
Those files are being used by OFA. But Hogan said the data are owned by the Obama 2012 reelection campaign and have been leased to the OFA.
Obama’s decision to back an organization raising funds from corporations and the wealthy appalled advocates of campaign finance reform.
“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,” said Fred Wertheimer, a Washington lawyer and reform advocate who is president of the organization Democracy 21. “It will either lead to scandal or the appearance of scandal.”
“This OFA idea is a terrible example of individuals and corporations being asked to pay to get access” to administration officials, said Bob Edgar, a former Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania who heads Common Cause.
Hogan and others at OFA point out that the nonprofit plans to go further than Crossroads GPS and other 501(c)4 groups by voluntarily releasing the identity of donors, with contribution to be listed in ranges.
Bruce Freed, who leads a nonpartisan center for public accountability that encourages the disclosure of corporate political spending, says he is disappointed by the decision to disclose donations only in marginally useful brackets. Freed says this approach will provide the public less information than many Fortune 500 companies have already agreed to provide to shareholders, such as the date and the precise amount of donations.
One longtime observer of political parties, Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution, is not inclined to join those reform advocates who condemn Obama’s experiment with a new organization. The grass-roots effort has only a long-shot chance of succeeding, he said. “But at this early stage, I applaud any attempt to try political motivation and innovation” as a way to attempt progress in an era of political polarization and gridlock.