Saturday, January 20, 2018

New nonprofit to promote Obama agenda

WASHINGTON — A new advocacy group launched Friday to push President Barack Obama's second-term agenda will be guided by his most-trusted strategists and have access to his re-election campaign's most-prized assets, including its intricately detailed voter databases.

In an email to supporters with the subject line "Say you're in," Obama vowed that the group, Organizing for Action, would be "an unparalleled force in American politics."

"It will work to turn our shared values into legislative action — and it'll empower the next generation of leaders in our movement," the president wrote.

Jim Messina, who managed Obama's 2012 campaign, will be the chairman of the board, and longtime Obama adviser David Axelrod will serve as a consultant. David Plouffe, Obama's top political adviser, will also have a role when he leaves the White House, a move expected shortly.

"If we can take the enthusiasm and passion that people showed throughout the campaign and channel it into the work ahead of us, we will be unstoppable," Messina wrote in an email to campaign donors.

To accomplish that, however, the organization must avoid the fate of a previous effort Obama officials made in 2009 to transform his first presidential campaign into a permanent advocacy force. That project, the similarly named Organizing for America, was criticized by many Democrats for failing to effectively harness the president's grassroots supporters.

The new group, unlike its predecessor, will be independent of the Democratic National Committee. It is being run by Jon Carson, who most recently directed the White House Office of Public Engagement. The organization's board is stocked with veteran Obama aides and is Based in Chicago and Washington.

Set up as an tax-exempt advocacy group, Organizing for Action will have freer rein to operate, as well as the ability to deploy the databases and software developed for Obama's re-election campaign. The campaign will lease those assets to the advocacy group, retaining control for the foreseeable future.

Officials said Friday that Organizing for Action, which was set up under the tax code's section 501(c)4 as a nonprofit social welfare organization, will accept unlimited individual and corporate donations but not contributions from lobbyists, similar to the self-imposed rules governing the 2013 Presidential Inaugural Committee.

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