Since Obama's re-election, one question in Democratic circles has been whether Obama would turn over his operation to the DNC to build the party for the future — or whether he would use it to protect his legacy.
After surveying its members, Obama's re-election campaign team considered housing the organization within the DNC but decided to become a nonprofit because it was the best way for campaign volunteers to stay together as a group and advocate for issues they care about.
Yet the decision to be separate from the DNC could rile some Democrats who have grumbled that the president was more interested in protecting his own "brand," in political speak, than in building the party.
The group will be a 501 (c) (4) under the federal tax code, which grants tax-exempt status as long as organizations are not primarily involved in activity that could influence an election. As a nonprofit, it could run ads advocating support for an issue but could not be involved in political activity aimed at electing Democratic candidates.
Campaign finance experts said the creation of a nonprofit group with close ties to the president could raise questions about how donations from corporations might influence federal policy. Craig Holman, who lobbies on ethics and campaign finance for the watchdog group Public Citizen, said if the group receives corporate and special interest money, it could "pose some very serious problems."
The decision by the group to accept corporate donations also reflects Obama's shifting stance on campaign finance. He criticized pay-for-access activities during his first campaign and was a vocal opponent of "super" political action committees, which can raise and spend unlimited funds to help candidates. Obama later signed off on Democrats creating super PACs when he faced tens of millions of dollars in spending by allies of his Republican campaign challengers.
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