Organizing for Action targets GOP lawmakers in first ad buy

An example of OFA's ad campaign, as seen on the Charlotte Observer's website.
(Charlotte Observer / Organizing for Action)

WASHINGTON -- Four California Republican House members are among 13 GOP legislators being targeted by a pro-Obama advocacy group in a new online ad campaign urging them to back a more robust background check system for gun sales.

Reps. Jeff Denham, Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, Gary G. Miller and David Valadao are among those featured in the banner ads, which begin running Friday on the websites of local news outlets such as the Modesto Bee and Santa Clarita Valley Signal. The ads, tailored with the photos and Twitter handle of each member of Congress, call on them to support universal background checks.

The online ad buy, which cost close to six figures, is the first such campaign by Organizing for Action, the month-old advocacy group formed by top advisors to President Obama to build momentum for his legislative agenda. The ads are going live the same day as the group launches its first national mobilization, a so-called day of action featuring 100 events around the country aimed at demonstrating support for Obama’s gun violence reduction plan.

As a 501(c)4 nonprofit social welfare group, OFA has said it will not engage in partisan political activity, but it has wide latitude as an issue advocacy organization to pressure elected officials on specific policy matters.


Among the other targets of OFA’s first ad buy are Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. Those in the House include Reps. Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania, David Joyce of Ohio, John Kline of Minnesota, Mike Coffman of Colorado, Daniel Webster and C.W. “Bill” Young of Florida and Robert Pittenger of North Carolina.

OFA officials said that although Friday’s events are focused on background checks, the group will hold future activities to rally support for the other planks of Obama’s gun control proposal, which include an assault weapons ban and limits on high-capacity magazines.

Background checks enjoy the highest level of public approval: in a number of surveys, support surpasses 90%.

But OFA’s efforts come before a background check bill has even been introduced in the Senate, where gun control measures have the best chance of success. Two Democrats -- Charles E. Schumer of New York and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia -- are working to craft the bill with Republican Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Mark Kirk of Illinois. Negotiations have been painstaking, snagged by logistical questions of how to perform checks and maintain sales records for private gun transfers.

[For the record: 9:12 a.m. PST Feb. 22: An earlier version of this post said that Organizing for Action was also running ads targeting Reps. Michael G. Fitzpatrick and Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania and Erik Paulsen of Minnesota.

The group decided to drop them from the campaign because the three legislators have expressed some support for closing background check loopholes, according to an OFA official.]


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Twitter: @mateagold

Melanie Mason contributed to this report.