Organizing for America: Obama Merges Campaign, Presidency
Chris Cillizza‘s report that the Obama campaign apparatus is being “activated” by the Obama administration gets A1 treatment in today’s WaPo:
President Obama will kick off an all-out grass-roots effort today urging Congress to pass his $3.55 trillion budget, activating the extensive campaign apparatus he built during his successful 2008 candidacy for the first time since taking office.
The campaign, which will be run under the aegis of the Democratic National Committee, will rely heavily on the 13 million-strong e-mail list put together during the campaign and now under the control of Organizing for America (OFA), a group overseen by the DNC. Aides familiar with the plan said it is an unprecedented attempt to transfer the grass-roots energy built during the presidential campaign into an effort to sway Congress.
David Plouffe, who was Obama’s campaign manager and is now an adviser to OFA, called this effort the “first major engagement” of the group in the legislative process and said in a statement that it will call on supporters “to help the President win the debate between those who marched in lockstep with the failed Bush economic policies and now have no new ideas versus the Obama agenda which will help us manage the short term economic crisis and puts us on the path to long term prosperity.”
Matt Yglesias thinks this is “a good idea” and I agree up to a point. Even though, like Rush Limbaugh, hope Obama fails in enacting many of his budget priorities, it makes sense for him to use the tools available to him to do what he was elected to do.
My concern here, though, is that OFA merges the White House and a campaign apparatus in a way we haven’t seen since the Nixon Administration. I assign no nefarious intent here and have no reason to believe that Team Obama is doing anything illegal, immoral, or improper. The relationship between elected official’s offices and campaign staffs are often murky and that’s been true of presidents of both parties for as long as I can remember. They call it a “permanent campaign” for a reason.
But this may be a case of a difference in degree amounting to a difference in kind. OFA is operating under the aegis of the DNC because it would have been illegal for it to be run out of the White House. You can’t use political mailing lists for official government business, for one thing. But, of course, the transfer to DNC is purely a legal fiction.
Is this just the natural evolution of how the game is played? Or a new game entirely?
Photo by Flickr user baratunde, used under Creative Commons license.