At the beginning of his first term, President Obama issued a sweeping executive order to establish unprecedented new ethics rules for his Administration.
His second term is beginning in the polar opposite way.
Through his political agents, the President has created a section 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization, Organizing for Action, that will raise and spend money from corporations and other special interests to support his policy agenda.
The creation of Organizing for Action has established an unprecedented vehicle for potential influence-buying, influence-selling and government scandals for his Administration during his second term.
The Washington Post raised concerns about Obama’s new organization in an editorial entitled “Obama’s Cashier’s Window?” According to the Post editorial (January 28, 2013):
What’s most troubling is that President Obama seems to have developed a tin ear about shadow money in politics. In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United campaign-finance case, Mr. Obama warned of “a new stampede of special-interest money in our politics.”
Why, then, is he opening a cashier’s window with his name on it for the same special interests? The president and his team may be wizards at social media and grass-roots organizing, but from an influence-peddling standpoint this organization looks to be fraught with hazard.
Functioning as a virtual arm of the Obama presidency, Organizing for Action will solicit and accept money from corporations and other special interests seeking to influence Obama Administration decisions.
What happened to the President who warned us about the dangers of corporate money in the American political system?
What happened to the President who warned us about the damage being done to our country by business as usual in Washington?
What happened to the President who said in his 2010 State of the Union address, “We face a deficit of trust – deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years?”
What does the President expect the American people to think when he attacked the Citizens United decision as “a major victory for big oil,” and then accepts $250,000 from ExxonMobil, the biggest of “big oil,” to help pay for his second Inauguration?
President Obama may think he can accept huge contributions from corporations and other special interests without undermining the trust of the American people and the credibility of his Administration.
The President is wrong.
President Obama should shut down Organizing for America and remain true to the repeated warnings he has given the nation about the dangers of corporate influence-money and business as usual in Washington.