By Justin Sink
President Obama will speak Wednesday to the nonprofit organization that grew from his reelection campaign despite questions over the group's fundraising practices, an official for Organizing for Action (OFA) confirmed Monday.
The president will address the advocacy group's "founder's summit," a two-day event for donors and supporters at a Washington-area hotel.
According to The New York Times, donors will pay $50,000 to attend the event, and other speakers will include OFA Chairman and former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, as well as Jon Carson, the group’s executive director and former director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.
But recently, watchdog groups and Republicans have accused the White House of selling access to the president through OFA, which accepts unlimited individual donations.
The New York Times reported last month that the nonprofit was offering donors access to quarterly meetings with the president if they donated $500,000. Smaller contributions were said to allow face time with other White House officials.
In an op-ed published last week, Messina stressed the group could not guarantee access to White House officials and said they would not accept corporate donations.
"Whether you're a volunteer or a donor, we can't and we won't guarantee access to any government officials," he wrote. "But just as the president and administration officials deliver updates on the legislative process to Americans and organizations across the ideological spectrum, there may be occasions when members of Organizing for Action are included in those updates. These are not opportunities to lobby — they are briefings on the positions the president has taken and the status of seeing them through."
White House press secretary Jay Carney insisted earlier this month there was "no set price" for access to the president amid pressure from nonpartisan watchdog groups like Common Cause that had questioned whether OFA was enabling influence peddling.
"The White House sets the president's schedule. And there is no price to meet with the president," Carney said.
But both Messina and Carney left the door open to a potential meeting between the president and OFA donors, one that now appears set for Wednesday.
"As you know, Organizing for Action was set up to promote the president's public policy agenda. Therefore, as anyone would expect, the president would likely meet with their representatives to discuss his agenda," Carney said. "But again, any notion that there's a price for meeting with the president is simply wrong."
The president's attendance at Wednesday's event was first reported by Politico.