Did I type “thuggish” into the headline? My bad. I meant “sluggish” but “thuggish” just somehow came out.
The Hill reports today that President Obama’s personal political army is off to a rough start. Two months after he converted it from a campaign to, well, another campaign, OFA is having trouble raising money. It’s also having trouble being honest.
Top campaign donors have been slow to rally around the group. A top Obama donor acknowledged Thursday that OFA has “hit some bumps” at the start and “the money isn’t there.”
“It’s definitely had some turbulence in terms of process,” said one former senior administration official. “Has it had the best process start? Probably not. Mostly because I think it’s set up against a bunch of negatives and people saying, ‘You’re never going to raise enough money.’ Anytime you do something new, there are going to be some potholes in the road.”
One of those potholes is the lingering accusation that OFA is selling access to the president. Obama’s spokesman has denied it, but the New York Times stands by its reporting that OFA has put quarterly meetings with the president on the swag list for major donors. The president himself reinforced the “Let the bidding for time with me” schtick in the way he is handling OFA’s launch meeting.
Obama acknowledged the problems in a Wednesday address at the “founders summit” intended as a celebratory launch for around 75 top donors and volunteers.
It’s tough to argue that you’re not selling access, when you’re selling access.
Another of its problems is its non-profit, allegedly non-partisan status, which is a joke. OFA is the president’s former campaign, it is staffed by his former campaign staff, and it does his bidding. It answers to him alone. OFA runs his website and manages his and the First Lady’s twitter feeds.
Yet we’re supposed to believe that it’s a non-partisan advocacy group. What it really is, is a pressure group meant in part to keep wavering Democrats in line with the president’s dodgy agenda. That’s how the president himself describes it, in the speech he delivered to the “non-partisan” group.
“If you have a senator of a congressman in a swing district who is prepared to take a tough vote… I want to make sure they feel supported and they know there are constituencies of theirs that agree with them, even if they may be getting a lot of pushback in that district,” Obama said. “If we move aggressively on an issue like climate change, that’s not an easy issue for a lot of folks because the benefits may be out in the future, and I want to make sure a congressman, a senator feels as if they have the information and the grassroots network that will support them.”
Support…intimidation. Same same, really.
OFA ought to have many on the left worried, not celebrating. It may siphon dollars away from the likes of MoveOn.org, and may siphon dollars and influence away from the Democratic National Committee. So far, it’s consolidating money and influence into a group that’s dubious ethically, barely legal as long as it pretends to be non-partisan, and beholden far more to one man than it is to any broader movement. If anyone among the Democrats gets out of line with Obama for a second, they can expect to have OFA unleashed on them. That’s probably not a welcome prospect for any Democrat hailing from a red state or district.