SocraticGadfly: Most transparently money-grubbing administration in history

March 18, 2013

Most transparently money-grubbing administration in history

In case you missed it, this New York Times piece last Friday by Nicholas Confessiore will give you the details of the sordidness of President Barack Obama's selling "access" via Organizing for America. It's far beyond Slick Willie Clinton's Lincoln Bedroom pay-to-stays, or anything W. did.

Here's a few highlights, with commentary.

First, the legal backdrop:
Unlike a presidential campaign, Organizing for Action has been set up as a tax-exempt “social welfare group.” That means it is not bound by federal contribution limits, laws that bar White House officials from soliciting contributions, or the stringent reporting requirements for campaigns. In their place, the new group will self-regulate. 
Yeah, right, on "self-regulate." If you believe that, I've got some tombstones in Chicago that are eligible to vote to sell you.

Then there's this:
But those contributions will also translate into access, according to donors courted by the president’s aides. Next month, Organizing for Action will hold a “founders summit” at a hotel near the White House, where donors paying $50,000 each will mingle with Mr. Obama’s former campaign manager, Jim Messina, and Mr. Carson, who previously led the White House Office of Public Engagement. 
Don't think some lobbying is going to be done there?

And, if you're a CEO, and $50K isn't enough to get enough access, well, you can just multiply it tenfold:
Giving or raising $500,000 or more puts donors on a national advisory board for Mr. Obama’s group and the privilege of attending quarterly meetings with the president, along with other meetings at the White House. Moreover, the new cash demands on Mr. Obama’s top donors and bundlers come as many of them are angling for appointments to administration jobs or ambassadorships.  
Plenty of "access" right there.

The type of "access" that, to riff on an old conservative book, "None Dare Call It Lobbying," but rather, Maximum Leader's buddies in the health care business call it "convening."

Plus, looks good on a corner-suite resume, don't it?

Finally, there's this:
Organizing for Action has also promised to steer clear of electoral politics, unlike the politically active nonprofit groups like the right-leaning Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies and Americans for Prosperity. Such groups spent hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising during the recent election campaign season, ostensibly for issue advocacy, spurring a wave of lawsuits, ethics complaints from campaign watchdogs and criticism from Mr. Obama himself. 

But the distinction between campaigning and issue advocacy may be hard for Organizing for Action to maintain in the prelude to the 2014 elections, especially if it continues its emphasis on pressing lawmakers on delicate issues like immigration and guns. 

And, while Obama's version of this is the most egregious, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has something similar, and its PR edge doesn't bode well for uses of Organizing for America, either.

And, Post-Citizens United, expect this shite to only get worse.

That said, the money issue itself is bad enough.

It's the hypocrisy that adds to the problem.

I mean, an honest thief, you have some idea of just how "bought" they are. With a hypocritical one, it's hard to tell.

And, that hypocrisy remains part of the issue on things like this.

Then, there's issue B. If this is political action committee in disguise, what are Obama's political plans? He gave lip service to climate change in his second inaugural; he gave lip service to Social Security cutbacks the month before that, though.

Update, March 18: Columbia Journalism Review lists four specific ways to "steer unlimited sums into the president’s new operation without leaving a fingerprint." They are: unregistered lobbyists, "laundered" contributions, in-kind contributions, and delayed disclosures. All four have relatively long and ignoble histories. No. 2, for example, was a favorite of Jack Abramoff.

The last is the most insidious. From an administration that touts the benefits of the digital world in things like electronic patient records, not to disclose donations immediately is hypocrisy one malebolge deeper.

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