The Washington Post

OFA’s effectiveness contingent on ‘Action August’

As Organizing For Action (OFA) meets in Washington, D.C. Monday night, the non-profit tied to President Obama is gearing up for a major advocacy push in August aimed at marshaling support for both the president's health-care law and immigration reform initiative.

President Barack Obama gestures as he announces he will nominate Charlotte, N.C. Mayor Anthony Foxx to succeed Ray LaHood as Transportation Secretary, Monday, April 29, 2013, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The five-month-old successor of President Obama's re-election campaign, OFA has raised over $13.1 million from more than 137,000 donors to advocate for issues on Obama's progressive agenda. The group works on gun violence, climate change and women's health issues, in addition to health care and immigration.

The group's executive director Jon Carson, said in a recent interview that OFA will focus primarily on promoting implementation of the Affordable Care Act and passage of immigration reform in the House through a month-long campaign dubbed "Action August."

OFA is "educating the American people and our volunteers about this law, and the benefits of it,"  Carson said. "People understand it when it's explained to them by their neighbors, when they have concrete examples."

The August campaign to bring health care to the American consciousness and immigration reform to the House docket is one of many organizing strategies OFA has implemented to capitalize on Obama's 2008 theme of change. When Michelle Obama launched OFA in January, she quoted her husband saying "winning an election won't bring about the change we seek. It's simply the chance to make that change."

"Their recess is our opportunity to speak with our elected officials directly about the issues we care about," said Carson in a July online address. "The more people who step up and get involved, the more likely we'll all be heard."

The outcome of their summer recess activities could help settle the ongoing debate over OFA's effectiveness as an issues-based organization.

Though OFA's Web site includes a list of targeted congressional districts on the issue of immigration and gun control, it won't be clear if  its efforts to convince members of Congress are fruitful until these issues are brought on the floor again. So far, Republican House members who have been courted by OFA activists have remained noncommittal on the group's  agenda.

"We certainly hear from [OFA] as well as other pro-immigration reform constituent groups in the district," said Greg Lemon, a spokesperson for Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.). "We take petitions and legislative opinion forms and respond to them like we do all constituents."

Rep. Gary Miller's (R-Calif.) office says he has been visited by over 30 groups - including OFA - and hundreds of individuals on the subject of immigration. Despite these meetings, Miller isn't aligning himself with a specific position.

"Congressman Miller's position will continue to evolve as we continue to listen and gather input from residents, business leaders and law enforcement officials," said Miller spokeswoman Megan Bush.

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