White House press secretary Jay Carney insisted Monday it was "absurd and wrong" to accuse Organizing for Action, the nonprofit group birthed from President Obama's reelection campaign, of selling access to the president.
Obama will attend 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. Speakers will include Jim Messina, OFA's chairman and former Obama campaign manager, and Jon Carson, the group’s executive director and former director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.
Republicans and independent watchdog groups have questioned the ethics behind a group so closely associated with the president independently raising money.
Carney on Monday said that Obama's decision to meet Wednesday with OFA supporters was no different than when the president discusses his policy agenda with the Democratic National Committee or groups that raise funds for the party's congressional candidates.
"The president's out there pushing for his agenda," Carney said. "And he obviously believes that an organization like this is both helpful and appropriate in engaging the American people, engaging those Americans who support this agenda in a way that helps move the process forward."
Carney also disputed the notion that OFA was inherently partisan and political in its mission to support the president's policy agenda.
"The idea that an organization is out there promoting immigration reform — we heard from a lot of Republicans this weekend about their support for comprehensive immigration reform, much as the president supports comprehensive immigration reform," Carney said.
In an op-ed published last week, OFA head Jim Messina stressed the group could not guarantee access to White House officials and said it 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."