The Wire has an interesting story on the far-left organization Organizing for Action, which morphed out of the president’s campaign organization with the same initials. Per Wikipedia:
Organizing for Action (OFA) is a nonprofit social welfare organization and community organizing project in the United States which advocates for the agenda of U.S. President Barack Obama. The organization is officially non-partisan, but its agenda and policies are strongly allied with the Democratic Party of which Obama is a member. It is the successor of Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and of Organizing for America, which itself succeeded Obama’s 2008 campaign.
Founded after President Obama’s re-election, the group seeks to mobilize supporters in favor of Obama’s legislative priorities. OFA is registered as a 501(c)(4) organization,which may advocate for legislation but is prohibited from specifically supporting political candidates. OFA is organized as a grassroots organization, with local chapters that decide which issues to organize around. (Emphasis WWTFT)
Since there is not a smidgen of corruption in the IRS, it is for certain that they are monitoring the activities of this tax-exempt “non-partisan” organization very closely.
The fact that they have free reign to use a sitting president’s name as they see fit, and attribute whatever they like to him, poses no ethical conflict. The Wire points out that most people don’t realized that the President is not the one tweeting
As The Wire reported last April, and as many, many people still seem not to realize, the Twitter account that bears President Obama’s name and image is not actually tweeting on behalf of the president. Instead, it’s controlled by Organizing For Action, the 501(c)(4) non-profit that took over the reins of the 2012 Obama campaign’s organizing activity early last year. This is perfectly legal — OFA rents the account from the still-extant campaign infrastructure — but it’s obviously confusing to users.
Not so, says OFA. People shouldn’t be confused just because the twitter handle is @barackobama, includes his picture, advocates exactly his policies, and is being run by some of the same people who were in the prior organization; because, after all, tweets from the president himself are clearly denoted, on the same account bearing his name.
When I spoke with an official from OFA last year, I was told that the organization didn’t think people should be confused. The account’s bio clearly states it’s run by OFA, and it notes that any tweets actually from Obama will be signed “-bo.” (Over at least the past four months, there have been zero tweets signed in that way.) But the bio only shows up when you go to twitter.com/barackobama; retweets of OFA’s Obama tweets don’t indicate that it’s not the man himself doing the tweeting.
How could anyone be confused?
Well, the main-stream media is either confused, or doesn’t see a problem with colluding with the scam. The Wire‘s attempts to get to the bottom of who was actually speaking through the account fell on deaf ears.
Members of the media didn’t grasp the distinction between @BarackObama and Barack Obama after those tweets either. At Mediaite, a story reports that “Obama Tweets Congratulations to Gay NFL Prospect Michael Sam.” At Deadline, “Fan-in-Chief Obama Tweets ‘No Spoilers'” about House of Cards.
Both of those stories are wrong. The OFA official I spoke with last year made clear that the organization and the White House didn’t work together on tweets. Besides, if they did, if these tweets were actually from Obama, there’s no reason not to include that “-bo” at the end. If OFA itself was hoping to congratulate Sam, it has its own vehicle to do so: its organizational Twitter account, @OFA.
There really isn’t an above-board explanation for this, no matter how you slice it. Here are the possibilities.
In the first case, a sitting president has let his name be used by a non-government entity to espouse whatever they choose. That kind of power is probably worth a few dollars. The Wire illustrates this with a hypothetical example,
What if — and there is no indication that this happened — a donor to OFA asked that the organization tweet this on the show’s behalf? There doesn’t appear to be any overlap between the show’s producers or Netflix executives and OFA donors, and Obama is apparently a fan of the show. But there is nothing preventing such a scenario from taking place. That tweet from @BarackObama about the show has been retweeted over 30,000 times — an impressive social media marketing victory for any company. And if OFA wanted to, it could use @BarackObama for that for any number of things, besides simply the Obama policy initiatives that it usually uses the account to promote.
In the second case, we have a president who is using his office to grant privileges to a private organization that they ought not have. Does nobody think this is unseemly, if not unethical?