Former president Barack Obama, who has maintained a low profile since leaving the White House, reemerged in a new video to garner support for a redistricting group led by former attorney general Eric Holder that is targeting Republican politicians in a dozen states across the country.
The National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), a group headquartered in Washington, D.C., and chaired by Holder, emailed the video out on Wednesday. The NDRC seeks to enact a "comprehensive" strategy to impact the 2021 redistricting process by using electoral, legal, and ballot initiative components.
"In America, politicians shouldn't pick their voters. Voters are supposed to pick their politicians," Obama says in the video. "That's why I supported former attorney general Eric Holder in starting the National Democratic Redistricting Committee." The group argues that Republican-controlled legislatures have locked in "structural advantages" that would determine future elections.
"Of course, that's good for special interests—who want to protect tax breaks for the most powerful—or the gun lobby, or environmental polluters, but it's not good for our children," Obama says in the video.
Prior to leaving the White House, Obama held a strategy meeting with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), and former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, where they identified breaking up Republican congressional district control as a top priority for the Democratic party.
Obama's involvement with the NDRC reportedly stemmed from his anger at Republicans, who made it difficult for him to achieve his goals during his presidency after they had taken control of the House of Representatives.
"The tasks that he had placed before him were made a lot more difficult, progress a lot more difficult, than it needed to be," Holder told the New York Times in early 2017. "That's because of the Congress that he had to deal with, which was a function of the 2010 redistricting effort."
The NRDC's website expands upon this sentiment.
"In 2010, Republicans rode a midterm wave into power, winning state legislative and gubernatorial elections around the country," the site states. "That gave them disproportional control over the nation's redistricting process—where state leaders redraw congressional and state legislative lines following the nation's Census to make sure districts include roughly the same number of people."
"In state after state, Republican legislatures and governors used this power over the process to ensure permanent Republican majorities and diminish the voting impact of Democrats and minorities."
The NRDC has already thrown hundreds of thousands of dollars behind Democrats such as Virginia governor Ralph Northam. The group also poured hundreds of thousands more in support of Democrats in Wisconsin, among its legal challenges in other states.
The NDRC raised $11 million last year to target Republicans in 12 states this year.
The group's "target list" includes Republican governors, legislators, and ballot initiatives in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin as their primary focus.
Eight additional states were added to their "watch list" including Arizona, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah.
Marc Elias, a partner at the D.C. office of the Perkins Coie law firm who acted as Hillary Clinton's top campaign lawyer and also represents a number of Democratic campaigns and PACs, is general counsel and senior adviser for the NDRC.
The NDRC did not return a request for comment on the extent of Obama's involvement by press time.