Lobbying for Action

OFA registers as lobbyist in NY despite anti-lobbyist positions

Jim Messina
Jim Messina / AP
April 12, 2013

Organizing for Action, which has pledged not to take money from lobbyists and says on their website that they will not engage in lobbying, has registered as a lobbying group in New York state, according to public records.

"We anticipate Organizing for Action will exceed the $5,000 threshold for lobbying," OFA Chief of Staff Grant Campbell wrote in a letter to the state’s ethics commission on March 27.

OFA, President Barack Obama’s dark money group, recently joined with two other New York lobbying organizations, the Public Campaign Action Fund and Citizens Action of New York, to advocate for New York campaign finance reform legislation.

Campaign finance attorneys say organizations must register as lobbyists in New York if they spend more than $5,000 to influence state legislation. Registered lobbyists must disclose details about their advocacy spending.

"In New York, if you engage in any sort of a call to action on the part of government, whether you do it directly … or you do it indirectly … that’s lobbying," one New York-based attorney who specializes in state lobbying law told the Washington Free Beacon last month.

"If Organizing for Action either hires someone or has an in-house person and their expenses exceed $5,000, then they’re obliged to register under New York state law," the attorney added.

Organizing for Action says on its website that it would not engage in lobbying.

"OFA will not directly lobby elected officials on behalf of the policies it supports, nor will it hire lobbyists to do so. It is an advocacy organization that will promote these programs throughout the nation and will mobilize citizens to speak out for their adoption and implementation," the group’s website says.

The group has taken a hardline approach against lobbyists in the past, and has said it will not accept contributions from federally registered lobbyists.

OFA director Jon Carson said the election finance reform campaign was a "historic opportunity" for the organization to help "give New Yorkers the campaign finance system they want and deserve," during the conference call with New York Attorney General Schneiderman organized by OFA in March.

Schneiderman has been working to enact stricter campaign finance laws, including public financing for elections.

OFA declined to comment.