Ruth Marcus: OFA is taking porous campaign finance laws and exploiting them to the max

It isn’t merely conservatives griping about the dubious nature of the Obama campaign outfit’s metamorphosis from election machinery to advocacy group. The president’s lieutenants have been busily fielding a defense of the group’s intentions since they announced its new designation, with indignant questions flying at them from both the right and left.

In yet another defensive maneuver, OFA’s new leader penned an op-ed reaffirming the group’s commitment to transparency, thwarting special interests, and acting as a nonpartisan organization for advancing the president’s agenda (…is it me, or does that actually make no sense?) — before speaking at the group’s first meeting on Wednesday, that quickly closed its doors on reporters. Womp.

“I want to say a word about what we aren’t: We are not a partisan organization,” said Jon Carson, a former White House official who is now serving as the executive director of Organizing for Action. …

Former White House senior adviser David Plouffe, former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, and former campaign officials Ben LaBolt and Stephanie Cutter all were expected to address the roughly 70 donors and volunteers behind closed doors Wednesday afternoon.

Media access to the event is limited — reporters were allowed to attend a 30-minute session on Wednesday and are scheduled to an hour of access on Thursday. Obama’s speech is open only to White House pool reporters.

Carson, Plouffe and former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said that the organization would be powered by grass-roots advocacy — even as they made their pitch to a roomful of wealthy donors who helped fund much of Obama’s reelection effort.

David Weigel was not impressed with the fake transparency.

The president’s buddies can shout “transparency!” and “grassroots!” and whatever else until they’re blue in the face, but it doesn’t sound at all like they’re succeeding at convincing people that this isn’t a group meant to provide access to the president in exchange for handsome donations. Said Ruth Marcus on MSNBC earlier:

Look, OFA has made, has retrenched in some important ways. They are going to disclose their donors’s exact amounts. They’re going to limit corporate donors, but let’s be serious: This is not the change from Washington business as usual that the president and his supporters promised us. It is taking the new porous state of the campaign finance and tax laws and exploiting them to the max, and we’ve seen it before. And the next president to come in may not decide to disclose and we’ll have this secret army of donors. It’s a dangerous development.

Call it what you want, Team Obama, but if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck