Government watchdogs have criticized President Barack Obama for turning his campaign committee into a secretive fund raising outfit since the switch was announced in January. Now, the group is taking heat from a pioneer of modern money politics: Karl Rove's American Crossroads.
After Obama's re-election victory, Obama for America, the political action committee that fueled his campaigns, became Organizing for Action, a nonprofit charged with pushing his legislative agenda. Because the new group is a 501(c)(4) social welfare nonprofit—not a political group—it isn't required to disclose its donors or its spending. Campaign finance reformers and mainstream media outlets have criticized the change since it was announced.
"As far as I know, this is the first time a president has outsourced an important responsibility of his presidency to a private sector organization that is financed by unlimited private funds and that is, in effect, operating as an arm of the presidency," Fred Wertheimer, a campaign finance reform advocate said of Organizing for Action's creation. "In taking this step, the president has opted for 'the ends justify the means' approach that is fraught with danger."
On Monday Republican super PAC American Crossroads joined the chorus of criticism with a scathing YouTube ad.
The ad chastises Organizing for Action for selling access to the president, a claim made by the New York Times. The paper reported the group was offering donors access to Obama in exchange for donations of $500,000 or more. The Obama administration denied the claim and directed all questions to the organization itself. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney's denials, and clips of media skepticism, feature prominently in the ad, a spoof of an infomercial.
"For just one easy payment of $500,000, you too can get the privilege of quarterly meetings with President Obama," the ad says. "Order now and we'll throw in a private meeting with Vice President Joe Biden completely free. Or give us $1 million and you don't have to meet with Biden, ever!"
The group behind the ad is American Crossroads, the super PAC half of Karl Rove's Crossroads behemoth. The other half is Crossroads GPS, a social welfare nonprofit just like Organizing for America, which spent an estimated $70 million on last year's elections, according to the Sunlight Foundation.