As Critics Keep a Close Eye, Obama to Address Donors
President Obama will speak this Wednesday at a dinner for donors and supporters at the "Founders' Summit" of Organizing for Action, CBS News has confirmed.
The summit, which is scheduled to take place on Wednesday and Thursday at D.C.'s Washington hotel, will feature speeches from a slew of prominent former Obama staffers, including David Plouffe, Jim Messina, Jon Carson, Dan Wagner, and Lisa Jackson. Politico first reported Mr. Obama's slated appearance.
According to an official at OFA - the newly-formed action arm of what used to be the president's campaign apparatus - the summit will convene former campaign volunteers, team leaders, staffers, and donors to discuss its ongoing legislative battles, including immigration reform and gun safety legislation.
Jim Messina, who managed Mr. Obama's 2012 re-election campaign and now helms OFA's new iteration, told "CBS This Morning" the event would be an opportunity "to have a couple of days where we discuss ways to pass this presidential agenda."
"What we're doing is building a grassroots network to help pass the president agenda. He has laid out a clear agenda in the state of the union about what he wants to do," Messina said.
The news of Mr. Obama's appearance at the summit comes amid recent allegations that high-paying donors were being promised the opportunity to meet the president at the White House. Messina denied that charge on CTM last week, however, contending that while the president will be taking time to "communicate" with supporters and donors, they were not pledged time "in the White House."
"That's actually not true," Messina said, when asked about the notion that people who contribute to the Organizing for Action are promised a chance to come to the White House and meet the president. "The president will do what he did during the campaign, which is communicate to his grassroots supporters and ask for their help. No, not in the White House. There will be events where our supporters are briefed about what the president's doing, but look, the president has laid out a very clear agenda. This organization's only goal is to help this president pass this agenda."
Asked about the claims last month, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney pointed out that OFA, as a 501(c)4 nonprofit political group, is an "independent organization," not run by the White House. However, watchdog groups have raised concerns that as the president's former campaign arm being run by former White House and campaign officials, the group is tied too closely to the current White House. And, watchdogs add, as a 501(c)4, the group is now not bound by campaign fundraising caps and can raise unlimited amounts of money.
"Corporations and billionaires can write checks of any size, aware that they are giving to a group with close ties to the White House, one that is busily promoting President Obama's agenda," The New York Times editorial board wrote on March 3. "And now that this White House has torn down the last wall between its needs and those of special interests, others in the future will undoubtedly do the same."
"The unlimited amounts provided to OFA create opportunities for individual donors and bundlers to buy corrupting influence over the Obama administration's policies and decisions," Democracy 21 president Fred Wertheimer said in a press release last week. "At a minimum, they create the appearance that opportunities for such corrupting influence exist."