Russ Feingold's Group Goes After Organizing For Action: 'This Is What Selling Access Looks Like'

WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 01:  U.S. Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill December 1, 2009
WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 01: U.S. Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill December 1, 2009 in Washington, DC. The legislators held a news conference to voice their oppositions on the Obama administration's decision to send 30,000 more troops to war in Afghanistan. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Organizing for Action is taking hits from a group led by campaign finance reform champion Russ Feingold, which is accusing the group of selling access to President Barack Obama.

OFA is the latest incarnation of Obama's powerful campaign operation, which is now operating as a nonprofit advocacy group. The New York Times recently reported that the group was attempting to raise $50 million by tempting high-dollar donors with access to the president himself.

"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," wrote the Times.

In a blog post on Wednesday, Cole Leystra, executive director of Feingold's Progressives United group, said it was exactly "what selling access looks like."

"It's embarrassing that the largest grassroots organization in history would abandon its own beliefs," wrote Leystra.

"Organizing for Action should embrace its base of grassroots donors as a model of participatory democracy, not shun them in the dash to rake in huge contributions from a wealthy and powerful few," he added. "We cannot return to the days of soft money -- when unlimited corporate contributions blurred the differences between the two political parties, and resulted in policies that slammed average working families while rewarding Wall Street."

The White House has pushed back on these criticisms. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney recently said that OFA "will engage in advocacy and grassroots mobilization activities around public policy issues. It will not be engaged in political campaign-related activities. It has been organized to rally support of the president's policy agenda but is a separate organization. Administration officials routinely interact with outside advocacy organizations and this has been true in prior administrations."

OFA spokeswoman Katie Hogan has also stated, "No one has been promised access to the president."

While a Democratic senator from Wisconsin, Feingold was one of the most vocal advocates of campaign finance reform. In the 2012 campaign, he was a co-chair of Obama's reelection effort.



Obama's Fist Bumps