Organizing for Action raises $4.8 million in first quarter

President Obama delivers remarks at the Organizing for Action dinner at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington.
(Aude Guerrucci / Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — In its few months of existence, the nonprofit advocacy group launched to promote President Obama’s legislative agenda raised a little more than $4.8 million, a modest debut for an entity built on the infrastructure and grass-roots organization of Obama’s behemoth reelection campaign.

Organizing for Action shared its fund-raising information in an email to supporters that stressed the number of small donors, noting that 109,582 people contributed an average of $44 each.

“To anyone who thought we couldn’t do this, these numbers send a pretty clear message. It’s never been done before, but supporters like you are doing it,” wrote Executive Director Jon Carson.


“People – especially the special interests on the other side – are taking notice of what this grass-roots-funded organization is up to,” he added. “We’re digging in, we’re speaking out, and we’re amplifying the voices of ordinary Americans on some of the biggest issues of our time.”

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But he also continued to plug for more donations, asking backers to “chip in $5 or more.”

Organizing for Action’s initial fund-raising haul reflected a truncated first quarter, as it did not begin soliciting donations in earnest until February.

But its fund-raising underscores the challenges facing former top political advisors to Obama as they seek to transform his campaign apparatus into one focused on issue advocacy.

After launching in mid-January, the group was buffeted by sharp criticism for forming as a social welfare organization under section 501(c)4 of the tax code, which allows it to conceal its donors and accept unlimited sums. A plan to solicit $500,000 from wealthy donors and fund-raisers to be part of an advisory council that would meet quarterly with Obama fueled the controversy.

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Under pressure from campaign finance reform advocates, the organization reversed an original plan to accept corporate money and announced that it would disclose the name of each donor who gives more than $250 and the exact amount of their contribution.

[Updated, 8:15 a.m. April 12: The group originally had planned to release the names of its donors, but list them under ranges of contributions, rather than disclose the exact amount they gave.

That information is set to be released Friday afternoon.

The decision to decline corporate money shut off a major source of revenue for the organization, and Democratic fund-raisers said that the move would hamper its ability to bring in large sums.

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