Obama learns from his mistakes. He abandoned his stance of campaign finance purity as his reelection campaign approached, even though he continued to attack donors to conservative and Republican causes. He dispatched Joe Biden to pitch donors to the secret-money George Soros group the Democracy Alliance in November 2011. He embraced the Super Political Action Committee affiliated with his campaign, Priorities USA Action, in February 2012. His flip on same-sex marriage led to a donations bonanza. The unlimited donations to and expenditures of Priorities—$79 million raised, $65 million spent—financed “Understands,” the 60-second misleading negative ad blaming Mitt Romney for a woman’s death by cancer. Obama’s reluctant dive into the post-Citizens-United universe ended up a perfect somersault tuck.
Such a perfect somersault tuck, in fact, that in the months since the election Obama has moved, like Emeril, to kick his campaign finance hypocrisy up a notch. Last month, he announced that his campaign, Obama for America, would be reconstituted as “Organizing for Action,” a political entity organized under section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code.
Organizing for Action pledges on its website not to “be involved in anyway in elections” or—no joke—”partisan political activity.” 501(c)(4) groups can engage in lobbying and electioneering but do not have to disclose the identities of their donors. They are precisely the sorts of organization, in other words, that at one point in the not-so-distant past Barack Obama expended considerable energy condemning. But, hey, what are you going to do? There are illegal immigrants to amnesty and gun purchases to restrict. “The country simply needs it,” Organizing for Action’s new chairman, former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, was quoted as telling a group of donors on the eve of the presidential inauguration.
What Organizing for Action needs is a lot of money—but there are plenty of potential sources. “In its first days, Organizing for Action has closely affiliated itself with insider liberal organizations funded by mega-donors like George Soros and corporations such as Lockheed Martin, Citi, and Duke Energy,”Kenneth P. Vogel, Tarini Parti, and Byron Tau of Politico reported last week. This week a spokesman for Walmart told the WFB’s Alana Goodman that donations by the retailer to Organizing for Action are “a hypothetical at this point.” What about at the next point? And would we even know, considering the ability of 501(c)(4) groups to shield their donors, whether such a hypothetical donation had been made? The Obama people have been awfully cagey regarding the means by which they intend to disclose contributions. They have a history of changing positions on campaign finances at the slightest whim. Why give them the benefit of the doubt?