(MintPress) – Skepticism surrounds a recent announcement by a pro-President Barack Obama advocacy group, claiming it will halt corporate donations in an act of self-governed transparency, presumably abandoning its policy of accepting secret funds. But the group, Organizing for Action (OFA), still receives big-money donations and provides special access to the president.
This comes as OFA announces its fundraising goal of $50 million. Previously used as Obama’s re-election organization, it’s now transforming into a tax-exempt “social welfare” advocacy group. Its purpose is to support the president in his mission to achieve “enactment of the national agenda” he campaigned on.
In February, it was responsible for sending pro-Obama supporters throughout the nation to hold vigils and lobby Congress on issues relating to gun violence and immigration overhaul.
Open to donations from the public, reform advocates worry the organization could be a front for corporate interests eager to use their deep pockets as a way of influencing policy.
Their worries were exacerbated late February when the the New York Times reported that those donating more than $500,000 to the organization are rewarded with access to the president during quarterly meetings. This sent off a chain reaction of criticism, stretching from reform advocates to Republicans.
“It just smells. The president is setting a very bad model setting up this organization,” Bob Edgar of Common Cause told the New York Times.
The president, who once expressed his disgust for political action committees, also known as super PACS, is now finding himself aligned with those he once criticized. His once-supporters are now the ones pointing the finger at him.
Even recent announcements intent on cooling down the criticism have been met with fierce debate. New “transparency” provisions indicate the organization will continue to allow unlimited donations, yet it will not release the donors and funds raised through a report released every four years.
For those trying to stay up-to-date on the organization’s operations, that’s not good enough.
“There are opportunities for people to influence OFA that we don’t know about until it’s too late,” Sunlight Foundation’s Executive Director Ellen Miller told the LA Times.
New to the policy is a ban on accepting money directly from organizations. The organization previously announced it would no longer do business with federal lobbyists or foreign donors. It will, however, continue to accept money from unions.