Obama aides launch Organizing for Action to back his agenda


WASHINGTON -- Leaders of President Obama’s reelection campaign announced Friday that they are launching a permanent advocacy organization called Organizing for Action that will enlist his supporters to fight for his policy agenda.

Calling it “the next phase of this movement,” former campaign manager Jim Messina described the new group as an extension of Obama’s successful bid for a second term, which used technology to engage volunteers at a new level in their communities.

“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, who will be the chairman of the new group, wrote in an email to campaign donors early Friday morning.

The launch, which the Los Angeles Times wrote about Thursday, was the subject of chatter among Democratic activists and strategists, who predicted that it could upend the party’s power structure.

If it is able to sustain the intensive volunteer effort that propelled Obama twice into the White House, Organizing for Action could outstrip the role played by traditional interest groups, such as organized labor and the environmental movement -- and challenge the party itself as a center of influence.

To accomplish that, however, the organization must avoid the fate of a similar effort Obama officials made in 2009 to extend his first presidential campaign into a permanent advocacy force. That project, Organizing for America, largely failed to turn grass-roots support into a political force from within its confines at the Democratic National Committee.

On Friday, Messina wrote that the new organization would be driven by supporters and would hew to the campaign’s principles: “respect, empower, include.”

“We’ll work on the key battles of our generation, train the next generation of grassroots organizers and leaders, and organize around local issues in our own communities,” Messina wrote. “We’ll continue to support the President in creating jobs and growing the economy from the middle out, and in fighting for issues like immigration reform, climate change, balanced deficit reduction, and reducing gun violence.”

The new group is being organized under the tax code’s section 501(c)4 as a nonprofit social welfare organization, which cannot have politics as its primary purpose, limiting its ability to coordinate with the party or candidates.

In setting the group up as a 501(c)4, Obama aides chose the same structure as conservative advocacy groups, such as Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity, which the president has lambasted for not disclosing their donors. It remains to be seen whether Organizing for Action will voluntarily reveal information about its financial backers.

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