A controversial dark money group recently created to promote Democratic policies and officials has refused to disclose the location of a secretive donor meeting it will hold in Washington, D.C., next week.
Organizing for Action (OFA), a 501(c)(4) advocacy group created by President Barack Obama’s former campaign manager, will hold an event called the "founders summit" in a Washington hotel on Wednesday, March 13, according to an NPR report.
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According to the New York Times, donors will pay $50,000 to attend the event, where they can brush shoulders with OFA chair Jim Messina and Jon Carson, the group’s executive director and the former director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.
For $500,000, donors will enjoy a spot on OFA’s national advisory board, which gives them direct access to the president and other top administration officials. Government watchdog groups have blasted the scheme as a transparent pay-to-play arrangement.
Organizing for Action staff have ignored or rebuffed numerous requests for additional information about the founders summit.
Staff at the organization's downtown Washington, D.C., office would not answer questions about the event. Multiple attempts to reach OFA spokesperson Katie Hogan at a phone number provided by office staff were unsuccessful. Hogan also did not reply to multiple emails.
Their refusal to disclose information on the event coincided with attempts by OFA to reassure critics that the organization will be transparent and ethical. Messina has rejected claims it will allow wealthy individuals to influence administration policy.
The group’s advisory board meetings, Messina wrote in a CNN article, "are not opportunities to lobby—they are briefings on the positions the president has taken and the status of seeing them through."
Messina also claimed the group would not accept donations from corporations or lobbyists, though the president has made similar promises about lobbyists in the past.
OFA appears to be part of a renewed advocacy push by left-wing groups, many of which are backed by corporate dollars.
Business Forward, a left-wing group whose major corporate donors enjoy access to administration officials, invited business representatives to an unveiling event for OFA in January.
"For the next few years, there will be much more alignment between the business community and the administration," Business Forward president Jim Doyle told Time's Swampland blog.
Messina’s insistence that OFA will refuse corporate contributions also leaves the group with ample opportunities for financing through the nation’s largest labor unions, which he excluded from the list of groups that will be barred from donating to OFA.
Democrats have attempted to restrict or more heavily regulate political activity by corporations and nonprofit groups, but have largely excluded unions, which donate almost uniformly to Democrats, from demands for greater disclosure or spending restrictions.
That loophole is underscored by OFA’s apparently close relationship with the nation’s largest teachers’ union. The group’s office is located on the fourth floor the National Education Association’s Washington D.C. headquarters, in an office labeled "National Membership Strategy."
The NEA did not respond to multiple requests for information on the nature of its arrangement or cooperation with OFA.