Obama’s Outside Group Still Lacking Disclosure


The Center for Public Integrity has an important story today on Organizing for Action’s money in politics problem:

Organizing for Action, launched by former Obama campaign officials earlier this year, confirms it will not publicly release donors’ employer and occupation data despite collecting it through its online donation form.

Lisa Rosenberg made a similar observation recently, in adding incomplete disclosure to the list of problems with the President’s dark money group. To reiterate: OFA allows the President to accept unlimited donations (in the name of grassroots organizing), to build political power for the President, while avoiding the reach of campaign finance laws.

Here is President Obama in 2010 (video, transcript), talking about the DISCLOSE Act:

These shadow groups are already forming and building war chests of tens of millions of dollars to influence the fall elections.

Now, imagine the power this will give special interests over politicians.  Corporate lobbyists will be able to tell members of Congress if they don’t vote the right way, they will face an onslaught of negative ads in their next campaign.  And all too often, no one will actually know who’s really behind those ads.

Now it’s 2013, Obama has his own “shadow group.” We already knew OFA’s “voluntary disclosure” was ultimately unreliable. (It’s voluntary, and there’s a reason campaign finance laws aren’t designed to be self-enforcing. On top of that, even if they know the donor’s identity, donors are still quite capable of laundering their donations.)

And now we get official confirmation that even though OFA collects important information about donors, and they plan not to release that information publicly.  Why would Obama’s group want to know this information, while at the same time keeping it from the public? Why does the President seem to have no plan for OFA’s structure, apparently making it up as they go?

The President who was so concerned about the corrupting effects of unlimited contributions is surprisingly unconcerned about the effects of unlimited contributions on himself, and his c4 reflects it. OFA’s ability to broker access to the President and tap into large donors is only being held back by the threat of public blowback, and not at all by any Presidential sense of accountability. If OFA’s structure were motivated by accountability, we’d see a coherent policy about campaign finance disclosure, empowering public oversight of his group’s finances and donors. Instead, we see conflicting messages about what kind of access a $50K donor can expect, and a disclosure policy that exists only in proportion to public outrage about Obama’s dark money.

President Obama should be leading the way in creating accountability in our politics. Instead he’s leading politics to a place with little accountability.