Consider this a blast from the past, with a twist. It wasn’t that long ago that Barack Obama and his supporters attacked Americans for Prosperity as a corporate front group, just a façade for the One Percenters that might not even be All-Americans, like Obama supporters. In fact, AFP remembers those allegations pretty clearly — and recognizes the hypocrisy of Obama and his campaign, now that they’re transforming themselves into exactly what they claimed to oppose.
Alternate headline: We Hate Corporate Cash … When It’s Not Coming Our Way.
Today Americans for Prosperity, a nationwide organization of citizen leaders with over 2 million activists and 34 state chapters, released a new video poking fun at the president for his new non-profit, tax exempt group.
“Sadly most of us have gotten used to politicians saying one thing and doing the opposite – but sometimes even jaded cynics like myself encounter a level of hypocrisy so overt, it’s impossible to ignore. That moment happened this month when Team Obama reorganized as a 501-C4 called Organizing for Action.
“While I certainly don’t begrudge Obama for making use of such an organization and taking donations from whoever he wishes, the hypocrisy of doing so is jaw-dropping given the President practically made a part-time job out of bashing groups like Americans for Prosperity and others for… being organized as a 501-C4. The entire Left and many in the media got in on the action, even coining scary sounding monikers like ‘dark money’ to further the Obama rhetoric.
“The cognitive dissonance required to now fully embrace this structure gives me a headache just thinking about it. But then again, I’m a conservative and I like things to make sense.”
Josh Gerstein reported on the “murkiness” of OFA yesterday:
Because the new OFA is planning to be an “issue advocacy” organization, not a political one, the rules for government employees’ involvement in the group’s management, fundraising and activities are murky. The law regulating federal employees’ role in political fundraising, the Hatch Act, does not apply. And federal election law governing coordination among candidates, parties and outside groups doesn’t apply as long as OFA doesn’t get involved in elections (and possibly because Obama isn’t running for anything any more).
Some rules do apply to administration officials’ involvement with the new group: ethics regulations that limit the use of public office for private gain, including fundraising for non-profit groups, like charities and the new OFA. (The president and vice president aren’t covered by the rules, but all other White House employees are.)
“Government ethics regulations make it very clear: In an official capacity, you may not endorse any private organization,” said Richard Painter, an ethics counsel in President George W. Bush’s White House. “You can give an official speech at a fundraiser for the Boy Scouts, but you can’t endorse the Boy Scouts or ask for money in your official capacity. … That goes down to the point of people trying to auction off a lunch in the White House mess for their preschool. You can’t auction off access to government property.”
“Any fundraising at all by any government officials would be an unacceptable conflict of interest. … You’re getting really close to soliciting a bribe,” Painter said.
The Obama White House directed questions on how it would handle these questions to OFA, which did not respond to several requests for comment for this story.
Not everyone’s buying the hands-off, apolitical spin, either:
This is unprecedented as far as I know,” said Democracy 21’s Fred Wertheimer, a longtime advocate of tighter campaign finance laws. “It’s directly tied to the president and they have said the president could raise money for it. … It’s a vehicle for people looking to buy influence to provide direct financial benefits to support the president’s interests.”
“It has all the earmarks of an institutionalized disaster,” Wertheimer said. “They ought to shut this down and they ought to shut it down quickly because, regardless of what their intentions were or are, this is nothing but trouble and will be extremely damaging to the administration and to the president over time.”
“The notion that Obama would be involved with OFA’s fundraising is very troubling and amounts largely to a retreat from the position President Obama has taken throughout the entirety of his public life. … to reduce the influence of money in politics,” said Paul Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center.
“Unless the group discloses in the same way disclosure is required of super PACs for purposes of federal election-related activity, it would not only be hypocritical of the president, it would be damaging,” said Rick Hasen, a professor of election law at the University of California-Irvine.
Remember when Obama pretended to care about all of those issues? AFP certainly does.