Less than a week after Organizing for Action chairman and former Obama campaign strategist Jim Messina assured the public that OFA would not guarantee access to the president, we learn that a $50,000 contribution to the group will buy an invitation to a “founders’ summit” tomorrow, where the President will be the featured speaker.
We know that $50,000 will buy a seat at the table, but we don’t know who will be sitting at it. That’s because OFA has committed to disclosing contributors’ names only on a quarterly basis.
OFA’s minimal promises of quarterly disclosures of contributors’ names do not go far enough to rid the group of its dark money patina. Rather than delay disclosure, OFA should make public the names, occupations and employers of every donor within 24 hours of receipt of a contribution of $250 or more. The group should also disclose, in real time, all of its expenditures. Since there are no rules to enforce OFA’s voluntary assurances of accountability, public scrutiny is the only mechanism to ensure OFA is living up to its claims that it is not taking corporate or foreign money, that it is not engaging in electioneering activities and that it is not funneling money to other dark money groups.
Selling access to the president is nothing new. Bill Clinton had the Lincoln Bedroom and George W. Bush had his Rangers and Pioneers. It shouldn’t be condoned regardless of the mechanism, but the former presidents’ money men traded cash for time with the Commander in Chief within the purview of a campaign finance regime with legally enforceable limits on the amount and source of contributions as well as mandatory disclosure of contributions and expenditures. OFA is structured so that no legally enforceable contribution limits or public disclosure requirements apply.
Real time online disclosure of OFA’s contributions and expenditures is in the best interest of both the organization and the president, as it is only through comprehensive and immediate transparency that the public can determine whether OFA is living up to its promise to “rebalance the [special interest] power structure” rather than reinforce it.