Organizing For Action takes commendable steps, but more work needed

Organizing for Action, President Obama’s new advocacy organization, should follow up on Thursday’s encouraging moves to distance itself from Washington’s pay-to-play culture by developing and advancing a full political reform agenda, Common Cause said today.

“I’m pleased to see that the President’s associates have reconsidered their initial decision to solicit corporate contributions and sell access to the President through OFA and that they’ve pledged to make full and prompt disclosure of all gifts of $250 or more,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “But that’s really just a start.

If Organizing for Action is serious about putting to bed public concerns that contributions buy access, it should mobilize its impressive small-donor and activist base to push for real reform to clean up Washington, Edgar said. “That means getting behind legislation like the DISCLOSE Act, supporting a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and rein in runaway political spending, and developing a new, small-donor public funding system that lets candidates break their dependence on big money.”

Organizing for Action still has some work to do on its own fundraising model, Edgar said. The group apparently still intends to accept unlimited donations from individuals and political action committees; if it wants to reduce public concerns about the undue influence of big donors, it should at least impose the same cap on those gifts that the law now places on individual and PAC donations to political parties, he said. “President Obama came to power in 2008 on a wave of anti-corruption sentiment and the promise to change the way Washington works. He has an opportunity now to make good on that promise and through it to advance other items on his agenda,” Edgar said.

The President’s own words in the speech launching his first presidential campaign are apt today.

‘The cynics, and the lobbyists, and the special interests [have] turned our government into a game only they can afford to play. They write the checks and you get stuck with the bills, they get the access while you get to write a letter, they think they own this government, but we’re here today to take it back. The time for that politics is over. It’s time to turn the page.’