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Obama ‘Astro-Turfers’ Charge $500K For Access

From the New York Times:

Obama’s Backers Seek Big Donors to Press Agenda

By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE | February 22, 2013

President Obama’s political team is fanning out across the country in pursuit of an ambitious goal: raising $50 million to convert his re-election campaign into a powerhouse national advocacy network, a sum that would rank the new group as one of Washington’s biggest lobbying operations.

And we all remember how much Obama hates lobbyists.

But the rebooted campaign, known as Organizing for Action, has plunged the president and his aides into a campaign finance limbo with few clear rules, ample potential for influence-peddling, and no real precedent in national politics.

In private meetings and phone calls, Mr. Obama’s aides have made clear that the new organization will rely heavily on a small number of deep-pocketed donors, not unlike the “super PACs” whose influence on political campaigns Mr. Obama once deplored.

At least half of the group’s budget will come from a select group of donors who will each contribute or raise $500,000 or more, according to donors and strategists involved in the effort.

Unlike a presidential campaign, Organizing for Action has been set up as a tax-exempt “social welfare group.” That means it is not bound by federal contribution limits, laws that bar White House officials from soliciting contributions, or the stringent reporting requirements for campaigns…

But, being a 501c4, they do not pay taxes. (Though contributions to them are not tax deductible.) But they are subsidized by the US taxpayer, instead of paying their fair share.

The money will pay for salaries, rent and advertising, and will also be used to maintain the expensive voter database and technological infrastructure that knits together Mr. Obama’s 2 million volunteers, 17 million e-mail subscribers and 22 million Twitter followers.

The goal is to harness those resources in support of Mr. Obama’s second-term policy priorities, including efforts to curb gun violence and climate change and overhaul immigration procedures. Those efforts began Friday, when thousands of Obama supporters were deployed through more than 80 Congressional districts around the country to rally outside lawmakers’ offices, hold vigils and bombard Congress with e-mails and phone calls urging members to support stricter background checks for gun buyers.

Their "goal" is to pretend to be a show of grassroots support when they are not. This is what is known as ‘Astroturfing.’ A concept invented and perfected by David Axelrod. In fact, Axelrod founded and continues to run a company that had made him rich from Astroturfing for corporations.

“There are wins we can have on guns and immigration,” Jon Carson, the group’s new executive director, told prospective donors on a conference call on Wednesday, according to people who participated. “We have to change the conventional wisdom on those issues.”

By paying people to propagandize as if they are spontaneous concerned citizens.

But those contributions will also translate into access, according to donors courted by the president’s aides. Next month, Organizing for Action will hold a “founders summit” at a hotel near the White House, where donors paying $50,000 each will mingle with Mr. Obama’s former campaign manager, Jim Messina, and Mr. Carson, who previously led the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Giving or raising $500,000 or more puts donors on a national advisory board for Mr. Obama’s group and the privilege of attending quarterly meetings with the president, along with other meetings at the White House. Moreover, the new cash demands on Mr. Obama’s top donors and bundlers come as many of them are angling for appointments to administration jobs or ambassadorships.

“It just smells,” said Bob Edgar, the president of Common Cause, which advocates tighter regulation of campaign money. “The president is setting a very bad model setting up this organization.” …

In fact, it smells very Clinton-esque. Come to think of it, this is even bigger than Bill Clinton selling access for coffee klatches and sleep-overs in the Lincoln bedroom.

But The Times buried this news about ‘Organizing For Action’ selling monthly access to Obama for a half million dollars in the 11th paragraph of their article. And even then there are only two sentences directly criticizing the arrangement.

This revelation wasn’t considered to be worthy of a headline or lead. But if Obama was a Republican this revelation would be on the front page above the fold.

Yet the hypocrisy here is so blatant that even NBC’s Chuck Todd felt obligated to note that it "looks bad." Which is pretty harsh criticism coming from a network that now employs Mr. Astroturf himself, David Axelrod.

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, February 26th, 2013. Comments are currently closed.

One Response to “Obama ‘Astro-Turfers’ Charge $500K For Access”

  1. captstubby says:

    or if Bush was in office:
    “secret funds to buy more Black Helicopters for the coming new Gestapo.”

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