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Obama group maintains its mission is non-partisan

Organizing for Action, the issue advocacy-focused incarnation of President Obama’s successful campaign wing, is strictly non-partisan, the leaders of the new group said on Wednesday at a meeting of some of its members, volunteers, and donors.

“We are not a partisan organization,” Jon Carson, the group’s director, told a gathering of roughly 70 participants at OFA’s Founder’s Summit, held in a ballroom at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C.

“We are here to move this shared progressive agenda forward, and we will advocate to Democrats to move that forward. We will advocate to Republicans,” he said.

OFA is registered as a 501c(4) nonprofit social welfare organization, able to accept unlimited contributions and not required by the Federal Election Commission to disclose its donors, although it will voluntarily do so for contributions over $250.

The group, however, has been called out for accepting money from wealthy donors, even as Obama railed against the undue influence of big campaign contributors during his presidential campaigns.

But OFA National Chairman Jim Messina, who served as Obama's 2012 campaign manager, asserted that the group will keep its message strictly policy-based, emphasizing gun safety, immigration reform, and climate change as three top issues.

“There’s been some confusion about what OFA is and what it isn’t," Messina said. "I’d like to make sure that everyone is clear on that from the very beginning -- Organizing for Action is an issue-advocacy group, not an electoral one. “

Volunteer Carlotta Joyner, who leads OFA’s Western Maryland chapter, said she had no concerns about the large checks the organization may get from some wealthy donors.

“I trust the leaders of our organization when they say there’s no tit-for-tat -- if you give this amount of money you get to spend this amount of time with the president,” she said.

“I don’t see it as constituting a way for this particular group of people to have undue influence on the president or the administration.” 
Through Wednesday and Thursday, the summit will feature discussions on topics like the structure of the organization, how it will execute an “issues campaign” as well as policy-specific conversations.

Among those leading the policy talks Thursday are outgoing EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, (who will discuss climate change) and Neera Tanden of the progressive think tank Center for American Progress (who will talk about gun safety).