A Biography of Jon Carson, Executive Director of Organizing for Action

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Jon Carson (left) served as Deputy Assistant to President Barack Obama and Director of the Office of Public Engagement from 2011 to 2013. Derivative Photo created by Hugh Pickens Please read our copyright notice before using this photo or material from this article without permission or attribution.
Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Jon Carson was appointed national field director for Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008.
Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Jon Carson was appointed chief of staff at the Council on Environmental Quality in 2009.

By Hugh Pickens Story Started on December 8, 2008

Jon Carson is the Executive Director of Organizing for Action, a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt nonprofit organization[1] that mobilizes support behind President Obama's second-term agenda. Carson previously served as national field director for Barack Obama’s campaign in the primaries and general election in 2007 and 2008. After the 2008 election Carson served on the Obama transition team. After Obama took office Carson served as chief of staff at the Council on Environmental Quality in the Obama White House beginning in 2009 and was appointed Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Public Engagement beginning in 2011.

Carson is credited with the strategy of focusing the Obama campaign on winning small caucus states around the country which won Obama the Democratic nomination for President over Hillary Clinton in 2008.[2] According to Josh Gerstein Carson "is credited with executing the Obama campaign’s 'Feb. 5 plan' — a massive contingent of operatives and volunteers placed in 22 states while the press and top Obama aides focused on the four earliest contests."[3]

Contents

Early Life and Education

Carson was born in Chaseburg, Wisconsin, a village in Vernon County, with a population of 284.
Carson majored in civil engineering at University of Wisconsin-Platteville graduating in May, 1998.
Carson (bottom right) as a student at the University of Wisconsin Platteville.

Jon Carson (Full name: Jonathan Karl Carson[4][5]) was born in Chaseburg, Wisconsin,[6] a village in Vernon County, with a population of 284, located about 15 miles southeast[7] of La Crosse, Wisconsin, the nearest large city with a population of 50,000.[8] Carson was born June 25, 1975[9][10][11] and grew up on his family's farm[12] outside of Chaseburg.[13] Carson's father, Glenn Carson, was a member of the Westby School Board for 15 years.[14]

Carson was born on a farm in Wisconsin on which his family has resided for over 100 years. His family were members of: a supply co-op, rural electric co-op, credit union, and his dairy co-op is now a member of Organic Valley.[15] Carson worked on his father's farm as a boy doing chores on the farm and got his first paying job when he was 13 years old bailing hay on a neighbor's farm. Carson would bale the hay in the field, load it on the wagon, and then unload the hay and put the bales on a conveyer in the barn where someone at the other end of the conveyer would unload the hay and stack it. The work was hot and dirty says Carson but he received $4 an hour in wages which was later increased to $5 an hour.[16]

In high school, Carson spent summers wading through swamps to assist geography professor Stanley Trimble in his research of the Mississippi River. "He was really into streams," said Trimble, who later taught Carson when the young man moved west to pursue a master's degree at the University of California, Los Angeles.[17]

Carson graduated from Westby Area High School in 1993. Carson was class president.[18]

University of Wisconsin-Platteville

Carson majored in civil engineering at University of Wisconsin-Platteville[19] graduating in May, 1998.[20][21] Carson minored in Spanish and spent a semester studying in Spain.[22] While at Platteville Carson got involved with tuition issues and was eventually elected President of the student senate.[23] Carson said in 1997 during his senior year in college that he was aiming at a career that would combine political skills with environmental engineering.[24] "I'd love to be a negotiator at something like the global warming conference that's going on in Kyoto, Japan," said Carson.[25] Carson wrote his application essay for a Rhodes Scholarship about environmental issues and politics and his interviewers in Madison asked him to compare the effect of politics on the ozone crisis and on global warming.[26]

Carson lived in the dorms for two years, then did a semester of study abroad, then lived in three different houses off campus.[27] Carson did cross country for a couple of years at Platteville[28] and also did a student internship in La Crosse, Wisconsin for one semester.[29]

Carson maintains ties to the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. On February 24, 2011, Carson met with four senior business and accounting students from the university who took second place in the National Leadership Conference sponsored by the Association of Government Accountants in Washington, D.C.[30] while he was Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Public Engagement.

Finalist for Rhodes Scholarship

The Rhodes Scholarship, named after Cecil Rhodes, is an international postgraduate award for study at the University of Oxford and is widely considered the "world's most prestigious scholarship" by many public sources. "For more than a century, Rhodes scholars have left Oxford with virtually any job available to them. For much of this time, they have overwhelmingly chosen paths in scholarship, teaching, writing, medicine, scientific research, law, the military and public service. They have reached the highest levels in virtually all fields."[31]

As a senior in December 1997, Carson was one of nine students selected from about 30 Wisconsin applicants to attend a formal interview for a Rhodes Scholarship in Madison, Wisconsin and Carson was one of 12 district finalists chosen to attend the final interview at Macalester College, in St. Paul, Minn.[32] However the selection committee could only award the upper Midwest's scholarships to four students[33] and Carson was fifth on the list.[34] "He told us there was a lot of tough competition," says his mother, Carol Carson from the family home in Chaseburg.[35] "But I think he did wonderfully getting this far."[36]

Masters Degree in Geomorphology at University of California-Los Angeles

Carson was accepted to a graduate program in geography at UCLA but delayed his studies to work as a field organizer for Sen. Russ Feingold's 1998 re-election campaign.[37] According to Josh Gerstein, Carson floated in and out of grad school repeatedly while working on Democratic campaigns.[38] Carson says he never planned for a career in politics.[39] "Just about every campaign I thought would be my last," says Carson.[40]

"Back when I graduated in 1998, the economy was doing really well and one thing that the engineering school liked to do was keep track of everyone's starting salaries. They were quite proud of how everyone was doing. But I decided that instead of going out and getting an engineering job that I was going to work on a political campaign. So I think I ruined their statistics that year because they don't pay that well on a political campaign," says Carson.[41] "I worked for Russ Feingold. Then I started a couple of years where I would do a political campaign for a while, then went out to grad school at UCLA, then went off to the Gore campaign for a year and a half, then back to UCLA, worked on a couple of campaigns, then finished my grad degree, and went to the Peace Corps in Honduras."[42]

Carson received his master’s degree in fluvial geomorphology at the University of California-Los Angeles where he studied sedimentation in a section of the Mississippi River off Goose Island,[43] Wisconsin, a wooded island in the Missisippi south of LaCrosse, Wisconsin with a park and campground that offers camping, fishing, nature trails, swimming, canoeing, bird watching and waterfowl hunting.[44]

Geomorphology is the scientific study of landforms and the processes that shape them. Geomorphologists seek to understand why landscapes look the way they do, to understand landform history and dynamics, and to predict future changes through a combination of field observation, physical experiment, and numerical modeling.[45]

Carson says that although he has not really practiced his profession of civil engineering except for his two years working on water projects in the Peace Corps in Honduras, he is glad that he studied engineering because it gave him a grounding in the real world.[46] "Even though I haven't used my engineering degree in my other jobs, having that background in sort of real life reality based education has really been great."[47]

Early Political Work

In 1996 Carson became involved election of Ron Kind to Congress. Kind is the U.S. Representative for Wisconsin's 3rd congressional district, serving since 1997. He is a member of the Democratic Party and his district is located in the western portion of the state and is anchored by La Crosse and Eau Claire and Platteville. Photo: barrett4wi Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Mark Kastell/Ron Kind Campaigns in 1996

While a student at University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Carson worked as a campaign volunteer for Democrat Mark Kastel, a farm policy analyst and consultant,[48] in his bid to unseat Assembly Rep. DuWayne Johnsrud in 1996.[49] Kastel attributed Johnsrud's victory to negative campaigning and special interest money.[48]

Carson also worked for Ron Kind in his first race for Congress.[50] Kind was elected to the U.S. House in 1996, receiving 52 percent of the vote against Republican James Harsdorf.[51]

Feingold Senate Campaign in 1998

In 1998 Carson worked on Russ Feingold's U.S. Senate campaign.[52] Carson says on the Feingold campaign "I was given a paper list of about a dozen volunteers to start with, and the only new volunteers I got were people who wandered by our office when it was open."[53]

Gore Presidential Campaign in 2000

In 2000 Carson worked as a regional field organizer in the Iowa caucus campaign supporting Al Gore[54] and worked on the Gore campaign for a year and a half before going back to UCLA.[55] "I decided that instead of going out and getting an engineering job that I was going to go out and work on a political campaign."[56]

Carson says he had success in Iowa with a program similar to the one he used later in South Carolina in getting out the vote.[57] Carson says that the key to his method was repetitive interaction with voters.[58] During the Gore campaign, Carson participated in "The Spring Policy Forum of 2000" held at his alma-mater University of Wisconsin at Platteville on March 30, 2000. The UWP Student Senate co-sponsored the Forum: "Presidential Campaign 2000" and Carson presented the Gore campaign issues.[59]

Carson met his wife, Rebecca, while working on the Gore campaign in 2000[60] and they became engaged when they went to Honduras in the Peace Corps in 2004.[61]

Director of the Wisconsin Senate Democratic Caucus in 2001

Carson was the director of the Senate Democratic Caucus for the state of Wisconsin from February 11, 2001 to August 31, 2001.

Carson was the director of the Senate Democratic Caucus for the state of Wisconsin[62][63] from February 11, 2001 to August 31, 2001.[64] The taxpayer-supported caucus staffs - one each for the Democrats and Republicans in both the state Assembly and Senate - are intended to provide research and communications support for legislators.[65]

Complaint Filed with Election Board

The Wisconsin State Journal after examining hundreds of records and interviews with more than 70 people, found the caucus offices also operated as secret campaign machines, raising money, producing brochures and maintaining lists of potential voters for the leaders' hand-picked candidates.[66] The Wisconsin State Journal reported on June 7, 2001 that Carson, along with many others, had been named in a complaint filed with the Elections Board.[67] The complaint concerned campaigning on state time or with state resources, a potential violation of state ethics laws.[68] Also named in the complaint were Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala, D-Madison; Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen, R-Waukesha; Senate Minority Leader Mary Panzer, R-West Bend; and former Assembly Minority Leader Shirley Krug, D-Milwaukee.[69] Also named were the directors of the four caucuses: Rich Judge, director of the Assembly Democratic Caucus; Jason Kratochwill, director of the Assembly Republican Caucus; Jon Carson, director of the Senate Democratic Caucus; and Brian Fraley, director of the Senate Republican Caucus.[69]

"It's not confined to either the Democrats or Republicans, but I would say it happens on a wholesale basis and it's barely disguised anymore," says Greg DiMiceli, who was ousted in 2000 from the Senate Republican Caucus (SRC) along with three others when state Sen. Mary Panzer took over GOP leadership in the Senate.[70] "It (campaigning) is almost the reason now for the existence of the caucuses," DiMiceli said.[70] According to the story in the Wisconsin State Journal, formers employees say campaigning on state time with state resources is an open secret at the state Capitol to which regulators, lawmakers and the media have turned a blind eye for many years.[70] Ethics Board Executive Director Roth Judd says that although such activity has been rumored for years, no complaints ever have been filed nor have any investigations been launched by his agency.[70] Former director of the Assembly Republican Caucus Jason Kratochwill, who directed the caucus from February 1999 through September 2001,[71] says in court that he regularly attended meetings held weekly during the 2000 campaign in the office of then-Assembly Speaker Scott Jensen and that Assembly Majority Leader Steven Foti, Assistant Majority Leader Bonnie Ladwig and Foti aide Sherry Schultz also attended the meetings.[72] "Campaign staff would come down from races they were working, and they would meet in the ARC, and we would share information about what was going on in the races -- what money you had, what strategies you were utilizing," Kratochwill said.[72]

Results of Investigation

Carson was not charged with any violation of state ethics laws as a result of the investigation.[73] The Wisconsin circuit court granted Carson and 22 others immunity at the request of prosecutors and Carson was among those who provided testimony to the prosecutors.[73] The immunity required witnesses to answer questions but prevented them from being prosecuted for anything they might say.[73]

As a result of the investigation, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala was charged with 20 felony counts, including extortion, misconduct in public office and filing false reports with the state Elections Board and on December 15, 2005 was sentenced to nine months in Dane County Jail and two years probation for his part in the state Capitol corruption scandal. [74] Former state Sen. Brian Burke was sentenced to six months in jail and ordered to pay almost $88,000 in fines for using his office to run his failed bid for attorney general and for refusing to turn over a subpoenaed document.[74]

The caucus offices -- one each for the Democrats and Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate -- were dissolved in 2002.[71]

Carson Pays own Legal Bills

The Associated Press reported on May 10, 2002 that five lawmakers and several dozen legislative employees submitted hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills to taxpayers stemming from an investigation into allegations that legislative employees campaigned illegally on state time.[75] The Associated Press reported that Carson spent $10,000 of his own money for legal services.[75] On January 11, 2002 Carson wrote a personal check payable to the State Senate for his legal fees.[64] Carson's total bill for legal fees was $10,470.[76] The Senate has a policy that caps reimbursement for such legal fees at $10,000 meaning any amount above that amount would have to be paid by the individual.[76]

Request for Records Stonewalled

Phil Brinkman wrote in the Wisconsin State Journal that in 2001 reporter Dee J. Hall had written to the heads of the four partisan caucus offices then in operation in Wisconsin asking to see all the photos and graphics they had produced the previous year.[77] Hall was acting on a tip that the taxpayer-funded offices, established to provide legislators with extra staff for policy research and analysis, became full-fledged campaign machines in election years.[78]

Carson responded to the request for records in a letter that denied that such materials had been produced by his office.[79] "To the best of my knowledge, any such information has been and is properly maintained at other locations -- such as the office of the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee located on non-state property and maintained without state funds," read the denial from Carson, then director of the Senate Democratic Caucus.[80]

"The responses are laughable today, with five former lawmakers convicted of using caucus staff to run private campaigns, and many other legislators and staffers testifying under oath such conduct at the caucuses was rampant. But it took five years and the subpoena power of Blanchard and former Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann to pry loose the public records to prove it," writes Brinkman.[81] "When records custodians say they don't have records "responsive" to a request, that's often code for: We do have records, and you can probably get them if you ask in the right way, but we're not going to help you with that."[82]

Legacy of the Wisconsin Caucus Scandal

Longtime Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson stands at a podium and addresses a crowd during a Democratic Convention in Wisconsin, probably during the 1962 Senate elections. Shortly before he died Nelson, a former governor and U.S. senator, offered a penetrating appraisal of the Wisconsin Caucus Scandal: "When I was in the Senate, it was very common for someone who knew politics to say to me ‘You come from a clean state’. We had a tradition in Wisconsin. Now we've become like every other state. It's disgusting. It's a damn disgrace.”[83] Photo: Wisconsin Historical Images Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Norman K. Risjord, a retired professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a prize-winning teacher whose classroom lectures on American history were frequently broadcast on Wisconsin Public Radio, wrote in 2005 about the Wisconsin caucus scandal in his book, Wisconsin: Story of the Badger State.[83]

In May of 2001 the Wisconsin State Journal published a report by a pair of investigative journalists disclosing that both party caucuses were using full-time state employees for partisan purposes “in apparent violation of the law.” The report stated that party caucuses “serve as campaign central for many legislative races,” with caucus staff “performing a variety of functions in their state ofiices.” After an investigation by the state Ethics and Election boards, district attorneys in Madison and Milwaukee brought criminal charges against several legislators and their caucus staffs, including assembly Republican Majority Leader Scott Jensen and senate Democratic Majority Leader Charles Chavala. By 2006 both were found guilty and given prison sentences, along with two other legislators and still-to-be-counted state employees. It was one of the worst political scandals in the state's history, and it was a shock to the state's reputation for honest and progressive governance. Shortly before he died Gaylord Nelson, former governor and U.S. senator, offered a penetrating appraisal: "When I was in the Senate, it was very common for someone who knew politics to say to me ‘You come from a clean state’. We had a tradition in Wisconsin. Now we've become like every other state. It's disgusting. It's a damn disgrace.”[83]

Development of Voter Registration Database in South Carolina in 2002

The goal was to make at least 25 percent of the total vote come from African-Americans. The strategy worked. In the 2002 elections, 25.4 percent of the turnout was black. But even with the 3,000 extra black voters, Democrat Alex Sanders lost to Republican Lindsey Graham in the US Senate race to replace retiring Senator Strom Thurmond. Photo: Lindsey Graham by Albert Milliron Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Develops Strategy to Target African-American Voters

In 2002 Carson worked in South Carolina helping Democrats target African-American voters.[84] In South Carolina Carson helped develop a database to maximize the impact of local volunteers making multiple personal contacts with voters in the African-American community and says that [technology’s] only use is to increase the efficiency of the personal contact.[85] Samuel P. Jacobs reported in the Chicago Tribune that Democratic Chairman[86] Dick Harpootlian, a leading South Carolina civil and criminal attorney[87] and the controversial[88] Chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party since 1998[89], hired Carson to assist with turnout efforts for the South Carolina Democratic Party.[90]

At the time Carson came to South Carolina he was criticized by Republicans because he had been granted immunity in the investigation of the Wisconsin legislature in 2001.[73]

Carson and his team, used records of the past five general elections, and identified "weak" and "strong" Democratic voters, based on how often they voted. Strong voters get extra attention. The records don't show race, but strategists can generally assume it from addresses.[91] Carson coordinated with 13 field offices on federal and state races. "He's a genius," Harpootlian enthused.[92] The $3 million strategy relied heavily on a computer program developed by Carson and Will Drake who used voter registration rolls to build a computer database of more than 300,000 "weak voting African-American Democrats" in South Carolina.[93]

Carson and Drake made sure that voters were contacted three, four and even five times through phone calls and direct mail.[94] The goal was to make at least 25 percent of the total vote come from African-Americans.[95] The strategy worked.[96] In the 2002 elections, 25.4 percent of the turnout was black.[97] Party workers contacted over 350,000 voters -- nearly 30% of the expected 1.2 million total.[98]

Results of Voter Database Strategy

The numbers showed that 285,000 blacks went to the polls in November, 2002 - more than 3,000 more than in the 1998 election.[99] But even with the 3,000 extra black voters, Democrat Jim Hodges lost a bid for a second term as Governor to Mark Sanford 53% to 47%. Democrat Alex Sanders lost to Republican Lindsey Graham in the US Senate race 54% to 44% to replace retiring Senator Strom Thurmond.[99]

Criticism of Voter Database Strategy

African-American Democratic US Representative Jim Clyburn says that the Democratic party's focus on high-tech methods to increase black voter turnout may have cost the Democratic party the election.[100] Clyburn says party leaders ignored concerns he raised along with other black leaders that traditional methods such as yard signs, advertising in black newspapers, and neighborhood canvassing should be the focus of the campaign.[101] "I think after 62 years on this Earth, I know a little bit about voters, particularly African-American voters," says Clyburn.[102] Clyburn says he applied traditional grass-roots methods in his district and if that had been done statewide, Democrats would have done much better.[103] Clyburn says he had heard complaints from voters that campaign workers who called inadvertently insulted them. "When I was growing up, black people were never addressed as Mr. or Mrs.," says Clyburn.[104] "And to this day, with a certain age level in the black community, it's an insult to call them by their first name. When you've got teenagers, white teenagers, calling a 65-year old woman and calling her Mary, that's insulting."[105]

"I think Representative Clyburn is used to doing things the old way and wasn't willing to admit that there are ways to campaign other than putting out yard signs or giving money to self-proclaimed community leaders," responded Reid Anderegg who helped coordinate the campaign in Charleston County.[99] "That's the old way. It doesn't work anymore."[99]

Work in New Jersey in 2003

From South Carolina Carson went to New Jersey to head field operations for New Jersey's legislative races in 2003 where Democrats took control of the state legislature for the first time in ten years.[106]

Peace Corps Service from 2004 to 2006

Carson and his wife served as Peace Corps volunteers in Choluteca, Honduras where Carson built water systems and taught surveying. Photo Credit: Choluteca, Honduras by Jonathan D. Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic
The survey team Jon Carson worked with as a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras loads up equipment and heads out to a rural Honduran village. Photo Credit: Jon Carson[107]
Dagoberto, the Maestro de Obra, or project manager, who would actually supervise the construction of the water system, shows off a water pipe successfully bringing water to a village. Photo Credit: Jon Carson[108]
US Department of State, International Visitor Leadership Program, MRP, Spirit of Volunteerism, the White House Office of Public Engagement and Jon Carson meet, September 27, 2011. (Photo by Charles Kellett)

In 2004 Carson and his wife-to-be Rebecca joined the Peace Corps and served as Peace Corps volunteers in Honduras where he built water systems and taught surveying.[109] Carson had met his wife while working on the Gore campaign in 2000[110] and they became engaged while they were serving in Honduras as Peace Corps volunteers.[111][112] The Carsons returned to the United States upon completng their Peace Corps service in 2006.[113]

Carson lived and worked in southern Honduras in the city of Choluteca.[114] Carson worked for Action Against Hunger and Plan International, both international NGO's that work with water and sanitation.[114] While in the Peace Corps, Carson conducted topographic surveys, designed small-scale potable water systems and organized a class on topographic surveying for local Hondurans who work in water and sanitation.[114] Carson was able to acquire donated surveying equipment from Wisconsin to help local residents better access drinking water.[115]

Carson says his Peace Corps experience helps him in politics because he recognizes that he speaks Spanish "like a gringo" so "knowing his limitations while communicating his intentions, serves as a metaphor for his approach" to communications in politics.[116]

Land Surveying on Water Projects

Carson lived in the central city of Choluteca and would ride out by bus, pickup, or the occasional mule, to villages to work on the water projects. Carson would complete a land survey of the village, design the system, and then hand it all over to a Maestro de Obra, or project manager, who would actually supervise the construction of the water system.[117] Carson worked with a Maestro de Obra named Dagoberto and and on a visit early in Carson's Peace Corps service ona project under construction, he first got to see Dagoberto in action.[118] On March 29, 2011 Carson wrote on a White House blog about the work he did as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras:[119]

"Installing a water system involves installing miles of plastic and metal tubing, building multiple concrete structures to capture and store the spring or ground water, building a 10,000 gallon (or more) tank to hold the water, and then installing a distribution system through the village with a water tap for everyone. All of the labor to build and install the system was volunteered by the villagers receiving the system. In order to manage one of these projects, a Maestro de Obra had to be a master craftsman, trainer and coach to the villagers who had never built one of these systems before, and have the political savvy to deal with the local governments and village politics that might get in the way of finishing a project.

Dagoberto was all of these, and the best Maestro de Obra I worked with during my two years in Honduras. My basic job as the surveyor and engineer was to make sure the water could get from Point A to Point B. The moment of truth would come after months of backbreaking labor by the villagers: digging a three foot trench by hand from the spring to the tank location, carrying hundreds of pipes over hills and across ravines, and installing them. Then you turn on the valve, and wait to see if water shows up at the other end.

The picture below is from one of those moments about a year into my service. Dagoberto stood next to the pipe as water poured out onto the tank site of one of the toughest surveys and designs I’d completed. I remember asking myself at that moment: with everything else he and other local Maestro de Obra’s were capable of, why couldn’t they also learn how to do my part of it?

It turned out that they could, and that the major obstacle in their way was access to the surveying equipment needed and someone to teach them how to use it. While I continued to complete surveys myself in my second year of Peace Corps service, I spent the majority of my time helping Dagoberto and other local Maestro de Obra’s become surveyors themselves. I wrote to engineering companies in the United States and received half a dozen donated surveying instruments that we could use. I then partnered with another local Peace Corps Volunteer, David Lawler, to develop an eight week long beginners surveying course that the local non-profit community college sponsored. Thirty local Hondurans enrolled. Eight weeks later, 25 of them graduated. After the course, I spent extra time out in the field with a small group of the graduates who planned to form a small cooperative of surveyors utilizing the donated equipment.

When you are completing a land survey like the ones we did to design water systems, the only way you know the accuracy of your measurements is to survey in a large circle and make your way back to the point you started from. This is called “closing the loop”. The only problem is that you don’t know how you did until you take the measurements back and make all the calculations. The day I went with Dagoberto and his team out to a small village for their first survey, I was more nervous than they were. For an entire day I watched quietly and anxiously as they made their way from the spring in the mountains down to the local village, making hundreds of measurements. My one requirement was that they survey back up to the starting point to “close the loop” so we could see how they did.

A long and dusty bus ride back down to my house and a couple hours of data entry later, I had my answer: Dagoberto and his team had nailed it. Five miles of measurements across the village, and they were accurate to within inches. I was so excited I ran outside and hugged one of the neighbor kids playing in the street.

That was 5 years ago. Dagoberto and his team are still surveying and partnering with NGOs who are supporting the water projects. Now instead of receiving a survey for free, villages have to raise the money to pay Dagoberto and his team for a survey. This invariably means they take the survey and water project more seriously because they had to pay for it, which leads ultimately to a better water system, and a better approach to community development."[120]

Perspectives of Volunteers on the Peace Corps at 50

On September 26, 2011 Carson wrote on the OPE blog that the stories of Americans who served as volunteers are powerful, moving, and inspiring and how a recent report surveying over 11,000 RPCVs and leaders entitled, "A Call to Peace: Perspectives of Volunteers on the Peace Corps at 50" hopes that the voices of RPCVs themselves will serve as guides for the next 50 years and echo the Peace Corps' mission of advancing peace.[121]

On November 4, 2011 Carson announced on the OPE Blog that he had added his Peace Corps story to the interactive website Peace Corps Postcards started by Colombia RPCV Maureen Orth and award winning filmmaker Susan Koch and sponsored by Bank of America and American Express. "I encourage all RPCVs to share their stories about how their Peace Corps experience forever shaped their lives."[122]

Meeting with Members of International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP)

On September 29, 2011 Carson met in the White House with fifty community leaders from the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), a professional exchange program that connects current and emerging foreign leaders with their American counterparts through programs to build mutual understanding on foreign policy issues.[123] "The leaders currently on exchange all have experience working with Peace Corps volunteers; they are here to honor the 50th Anniversary of the Peace Corps by exploring the methods, meaning and importance of local, national and international service, especially for young people," writes Carson.[123] "I am a returned Honduras Peace Corps volunteer, and had the privilege of meeting with this group to share my story. My two years in Honduras spent building and designing water systems in rural areas showed me how important full participation is to bettering a community. By engaging in service this way, I am part of a family of Peace Corps volunteers who are setting the example of service. My Peace Corps experience helped me understand how service abroad is an important element in fostering effective and friendly relations between nations around the world."[123]

Duckworth Campaign in 2006

In 2006 Carson was campaign manager[124] for the general election campaign for Tammy Duckworth in Illinois' 6th Congressional District. In the photo, Duckworth, the assistant secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, shares a conversation with a World War II veteran March 11, 2010 at a ceremony honoring about 250 veterans in timing with the premiere of "The Pacific."

In 2006 Carson was campaign manager[125] for Tammy Duckworth in Illinois' 6th Congressional District.[126] Duckworth Communications Director Billy Weinberg says that one of the reasons that Duckworth had selected Carson to be his campaign manager was that Duckworth was impressed with Carson's Peace Corps service and was looking for "a committment to service."[127]

Carson saw his role as keeping the campaign "on task and efficient" to get Duckworth in front of as many people as possible[128] and says that the campaign needed to keep a high level of activity.[129] "I feel the transition into a September level of activity happened in the middle of August," says Carson.[130] "We need to keep in high gear." [131]

Duckworth says she would have broken party ranks to vote with Republicans in favor of the nonbinding resolution supporting President Bush's policies in Iraq "but the resolution is really inconsequential because its purpose was political rather than substantive," says Carson.[132]

During the campaign Duckworth's opponent Peter Roskam accused Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran who lost both legs when her helicopter crashed in 2003,[132] of supporting a "cut-and-run" strategy in Iraq.[133] "Tammy [Duckworth] lost her legs fighting in Iraq and to accuse her of wanting to 'cut and run' is simply crude," says Carson.[133]

Duckworth lost the race but Carson met Obama chief strategist David Axelrod during the campaign and in February 2007 joined the Obama Presidential campaign.[134]

Illinois State Director for Obama Campaign in 2007

In May 2007 Carson was selected to be state director for the Obama campaign in Illinois.[135] On June 21, 2007 Carson wrote about the programs that campaign workers in Illinois were working on to get Sen. Obama’s home state supporters involved in the campaign.[136]

Camp Obama

Carson played a role when Camp Obama was organized in May, 2007 to train volunteers, mostly college students, in community-organizing techniques.[137] Carson knows that it takes a special understanding to be effective in a state where rural issues often dominate.[137] "We are trying to learn from the success and failures of past campaigns," says Carson.[137] The Washington Post reported that from "May through the summer of last year, more than 750 volunteers learned the do's and don'ts of canvassing, working phone banks and recruiting others to help at what came to be known as "Camp Obama," led by Carson, a little-known strategist, at one of the campaign's offices in Chicago's Loop."[138] With Clinton's name recognition and traditional strengths obvious in big states, such as California, New York and New Jersey, Hildebrand, Carson and Berman decided it would be more effective to deploy one volunteer to Idaho or Delaware than to send that same volunteer to Los Angeles or Yonkers, NY making a virtue of necessity.[139]

Nancy Scola reported on January 22, 2013 that Carson talked about "Camp Obama" at the Obama Campaign Legacy Conference on January 20, 2013. "Let's try this thing called Camp Obama. Here's what we'll say to people: If you fly yourself, drive yourself" to Chicago for a week-long training, "we will give you the privilege of going to work for free in the early states," Carson recalled, as the crowd chuckled. "We put that offer up on the web, and 10,000 people signed up in the first week. I said, 'Whoa, I think we've got something here.'"[140]

Sister Cites Program

"While thousands of volunteers went door to door in their home towns on June 9th, over 400 Illinois volunteers joined local Iowa Obama supporters across the state of Iowa to canvass in this crucial 1st caucus state," wrote Carson.[141] "Thousands of doors were knocked on and thousands of Obama supporters identified. We want you to join us for our next trip to Iowa!"[142]

US2IA

"Do you know someone in Iowa? A friend, family member, someone you went to college with?" wrote Carson.[143] "You can help Barack Obama in the Iowa caucuses one person at time by convincing your Iowa contact to support Senator Obama in the Iowa Caucuses. Sign up here and our US2IA coordinator will get in touch with you to provide you the information you need to convince your Iowa friends and family to caucus for Sen. Obama."[144]

Training

"Over July and August, the Illinois Obama team will be holding 45 trainings across the state talking about all of these programs and more and signing people up to join the team," wrote Carson.[145]

Director of Voter Contact During the Primaries in 2007 and 2008

In July 2007 as Obama's campaign began considering how to allocate resources among the two dozen states that would vote on February 5, Carson realized that some of the biggest gains could come from the smallest states. For example, in Idaho a campaign that was able to identify its supporters and move them across long, often mountainous, distances could overwhelm the caucuses and take a large share of the 18 available delegates. On February 5, Obama carried Idaho with 80 percent of the vote against Hillary Clinton. Josh Gerstein writes in Politico that Carson is "is credited with executing the Obama campaign’s 'Feb. 5 plan' — a massive contingent of operatives and volunteers placed in 22 states while the press and top Obama aides focused on the four earliest contests."Photo: Super Tuesday in Boise, Idaho by Sara Ewen. Flickr Creative Commons. Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Carson was director of voter contact during the primaries.[146] According to a Voter Contact Training Manual developed by the Democratic Party in Florida, voter contact is the heart of campaign field operations.[147] The three goals of voter contact are to repetitively move the campaign's message to key groups, areas, and individuals in an effort to persuade them to support your candidate, create programs to identify the key demographic groups, geographic areas, or specific individuals who- are most likely to support your candidate, and set up the program to get those identified supporters out to vote on Election Day.[147]

Focus on Caucus States during Primary

Kenneth R. Bazinet writes in the NY Daily News in August, 2008 in a story on Obama's top campaign staff members that Carson is credited with the post-Super Tuesday strategy that centered on winning arcane caucuses around the country, catapulting Obama to victory over Clinton in the quest for the Democratic nomination for President.[148] "He is a damn genius," says an Obama staffer in Chicago.[149]

In July 2007 as Obama's campaign began considering how to allocate resources among the two dozen states that would vote on February 5, Carson realized that some of the biggest gains could come from the smallest states.[150] For example, in Idaho a campaign that was able to identify its supporters and move them across long, often mountainous, distances could overwhelm the caucuses and take a large share of the 18 available delegates.[151] "We felt like that would be a place where the extra organization would really pay off," says Carson.[152] Carson was part of the team that made the decision to go after small caucus states where Clinton had virtually no presence realizing that the cost-per-delegate in caucus states was very low.[153] "I remember the day when we said, ‘'Look at this, we could win more delegates in Idaho than in New Jersey,'" Carson said.[154]

Obama's campaign divided the February 5 states into three categories: primaries like Illinois and Georgia they expected to win; those like New York and New Jersey where Clinton would be strong but Obama could work to minimize her delegate advantage; and the caucuses, the most demanding to organize but where Obama's appeal to party activists offered him a potential base of support.[155]

One of Carson's tools for winning delegates was a special calculator developed by Dan Wagner that could determine how many voters a candidate would need to take from a rival to gain an additional delegate. “It was essentially a game-theory application designed for use in the Iowa caucus,” says Wagner. Wagner showed his creation to some colleagues and shortly after was summoned to Carson's office. “This is very interesting,” said Carson. “How soon can you move to Iowa? Can you go in three days?” Wagner spent the remainder of the primary season traveling from state to state and led the voter targeting effort in the Midwest during the 2008 general election. [156]

Super Tuesday/Super Volunteers

As Super Tuesday approached, Carson called on the "super-volunteers," who had left their jobs to help the campaign.[157] "It was the first time that we took an enormous leap of faith in our grass-roots network that was already out there," Carson said. [158] On February 5, Obama carried Idaho with 80 percent of the vote against Hillary Clinton.[159] That same day, Clinton won New Jersey's primary by 10 points, but earned only 11 more delegates there than Obama.[160] "We kept waiting for the Clinton people to send people into the caucus states," says Carson.[161] "It's the big mystery of the campaign," says campaign manager David Plouffe, "because every delegate counts."[162]

Josh Gerstein writes in Politico that Carson is "is credited with executing the Obama campaign’s 'Feb. 5 plan' — a massive contingent of operatives and volunteers placed in 22 states while the press and top Obama aides focused on the four earliest contests."[163]

Appointment as National Field Director in 2008

On June 16, 2008 the Obama campaign announced that Carson had been named national field director for the campaign.[164][146] The field department focuses on the "on-the-ground" organizing that is required in order to personally contact voters through canvassing, phone calls, and building local events.[165] Voter contact helps construct and clean the campaign's voter file in order to help better target voter persuasion and identify which voters a campaign most wants to bring out on election day.[165] Field is generally also tasked with running local "storefront" campaign offices as well as organizing phone banks and staging locations for canvasses and other campaign events.[165]

Carson helped put an organization in place that was a traditional field organization in terms of staff and volunteers but had unique features in terms of data management, the use of the internet, the scale of the organization, the use of "super volunteers," and the field information campaign.[166]

Strategy and Organization of Carson's National Field Operations

Carson's Starbucks Strategy. "I called our office strategy our Starbucks strategy," says Carson. "We wanted offices everywhere because, despite all the focus on the online network, the truth of the matter was where we had offices and volunteers were working together with staff, we got work done."[167] http://www.flickr.com/photos/smoulaison/2244866679/ Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) Photo Credit: Allogist

Traditional Field Organization and Use of Volunteers

Carson says the most important thing the campaign did was to learn how to use volunteers as an extra layer of staff and added that Obama's field operations was much larger than Gore of Kerry's in the 2000 and 2004 campaigns respectively.[168] "It's far bigger...I think it's at least twice as big."[169] “The [2008] cycle was different fundamentally because of the wide ground game that the presidential campaign had, that Obama had," says former Congressman Martin Frost and 2007-2008 president of America Votes.[170] "In 2004, America Coming Together basically did the field program or large parts of the field program that the Kerry campaign otherwise would have done if they'd had the resources and the people.”[171]

Carson helped the Obama campaign use the internet during the campaign helping to gather the emails and mobile phone numbers of 10 million supporters, donors and volunteers.[172] "We've run sort of a giant experiment here in volunteer management and we want to take a look at the lessons learned from that," Carson says.[172] "I think in the same way that these incredible volunteers that we had carried his message throughout the campaign - talking to their neighbours about why he was the right candidate to bring the change that we needed - I can see them in a similar way explaining a health care proposal, explaining whatever issue it is."[172]

"We're waging a very aggressive campaign to use our network of neighborhood volunteers to persuade voters wherever they are," says Carson.[173] "The basic concept is not a new or revolutionary one," says Carson.[174] "Campaigns have always wanted to have a grass-roots, volunteer-driven effort. The two pieces that came together for us . . . was the sheer volume of the people who wanted to get involved and the technology making it easier than ever before to find us. It wasn't that Democrats didn't get it" in past campaigns.[174] "It was that . . . they weren't able to make it work on this scale."[174]

Carson says that the system for the field organization of the Obama wasn't really new.[175] "An interesting thing about our field organization is [that] probably 85 percent of the staff we had and 75 percent of the volunteers had never been involved in a campaign before," says Carson. "I had to remind them quite often that we didn't invent this stuff. The idea that a neighbor knocking on a voter's door was a good thing had been around for a while. The highly structured, accountable system we put in place for our volunteers wasn't new either. They'd been doing it in Chicago for a hundred years."[176]

New System of Accountability

Carson says that what was new in the field organization was the scale of the operation and the system of accountability.[177] "What was new was the scale on which we were able to do it and the accountability. There were three key elements to that. The first one is obvious. You can have all the thoughts in the world, but if we didn't have a motivational candidate, we wouldn't have had the raw numbers that we had. The second piece was misinterpreted by the press a lot. Our online efforts were a net, they weren't the engine. At the end of the day, voter contact happened because trained field organizers got their volunteers into a system that was getting doors knocked and phone calls made. What (he online efforts allowed us to do was grab these people quickly."[178]

"When we were hopping from state to state in the primary, we were able to go into Texas with three and a half weeks to go, had a quarter of a million volunteers signed up, with phone numbers, e-mail addresses. They had been using our social networks to form themselves into teams. A behind the scenes piece to this, which I do have to credit to the DNC, was that, finally, the party had a national voter file."[179]

"And so, when we started this general election, we had a system in place. Despite this decentralized system, I knew every single morning how many phone calls had been made, how many doors had been knocked, where, by whom, and if there was anything funky in the data. With David's approval, we ran what I call a Wikipedia style approach to data. Typically the Democratic party is concerned about who's touching the data, who's doing the data entry. [Instead] we put it out there. We trained our volunteers. We trusted them."[180]

"The third piece to this was our organizing philosophy. How we used these volunteers ended up being crucial. Usually, the local mayors, the local elected officials got lo meet the candidate. [In our campaign] our best team leaders [did that]."[181]

Starbucks Strategy and the Scale of the Organization

Carson was the head of 770 field offices for Obama across the nation.[182] Carson called this system of field operations the Starbucks Strategy because there were offices everywhere.[183] "I called our office strategy our Starbucks strategy. We wanted offices everywhere because, despite all the focus on the online network, the truth of the matter was where we had offices and volunteers were working together with staff, we got work done."[184]

"We didn't have the three months that the McCain campaign had. But one opportunity we had on the field side was when Indiana and North Carolina were over on May 6. We brought in about two dozen of our best field people from around the country and sat them down for a month to figure out what had worked and what hadn't."[185]

"We learned how to use this massive group of volunteers that we had. One assumption we made from the beginning was that half the value of this wasn't in the doors they knocked or the phone calls they made as part of an organized structure, but [was] dial on Sunday, after knocking doors on Saturday, they'd go to church and tell all their friends and neighbors they were part of the Obama campaign, and how excited they were. If you make phone calls from San Francisco, you might remember the next dav to make sure vour cousins in Ohio vole as well."[186]

"The toughest piece, and what differed from past Democratic campaigns, was that, from the moment those offices were ready, until the convention speech, the only thing I ever hounded them on was how big is your organization? How many people have you trained? How broad-based is it? Those were the numbers we were reporting on every single night. [The day after the convention speech—we launched the] the army that we needed for registration, voter contact, and then rolled seamlessly into GOTV."[187]

Crunching the Data

Carson avoided hiring people with political science degrees.[188] His background in engineering helped him crunch the numbers in his daily reports.[189] "It’s good to be able to understand the math," Carson said.[190] The Obama campaign used interactive websites and social networking tools to sign up volunteers and Carson says today's techniques are light years ahead of what he used in 1998 on Russ Feingold's Senate campaign.[191] "I was given a paper list of about a dozen volunteers to start with, and the only new volunteers I got were people who wandered by our office when it was open," Carson says.[192] Everything a volunteer does now is tracked including how many voters a volunteer has won over.[193] "Every bit of voter contact one of our volunteers does is entered into our central database," Carson says.[194] "I know right down to the precinct level how many people are working for us."[195]

"We had the best data operation of any campaign," says Carson.[196] "You can have the most inspirational candidate, you can have the best organizing philosophy in the world, but if you can't organize your data to take advantage of it and get lists in front of the canvassers and take these volunteers and use it in a smart way and figure out who it is we're going to talk to - I mean, the rest of it is all pointless."[197]

"A lot of reporters asked about our targeting strategy, our data strategy," says Carson.[198] "I believe that we had the best data that any Democratic campaign was able to use in a presidential. With such a broad organization in suburban Alexandria, [for example] in a Republican precinct, if someone moved in next door to one of our supporters, might be a 50-year-old white male, that person wouldn't show up on anyone's targeting list. [If the neighbor learned that the newcomer was supporting Obama, he'd say] "Let's get you registered. Let's get your data in." Our broad-based organization allowed us to move past some of the typical stereotypical targeting."[199]

Use of Super-Volunteers and Experienced Staff

Obama Campaign HQ, Berkeley. Carson had 15,000 "super volunteers" who donated at least 30 hours a week to the campaign.[200] Carson says that when he heard about staffers who had made extraordinary contributions to the campaign, he would investigate he often found that they were volunteers.[201] Carson says these super volunteers were key to the campaign.[202] "The most important part of that massive group of people were the super volunteers that we had" says Carson.[203] "We figured out in the primary how to take advantage of them. What we really ended up having was an extra layer of staff out there. In Ohio, we had over 1,400 people who were putting in 20, 30, 40 hours a week, and we empowered them. In a difficult decision, and after a struggle with people who'd done campaigns before, we actually gave volunteers log-ins to our databases, access to all the other volunteers in their area, and told them to get the job done."[204] http://www.flickr.com/photos/pargon/2838674676/ Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) Photo: Pargon

Carson had 15,000 "super volunteers" who donated at least 30 hours a week to the campaign.[205] Carson says that when he heard about staffers who had made extraordinary contributions to the campaign, he would investigate he often found that they were volunteers.[206] Carson says these super volunteers were key to the campaign.[207] "The most important part of that massive group of people were the super volunteers that we had" says Carson.[208] "We figured out in the primary how to take advantage of them. What we really ended up having was an extra layer of staff out there. In Ohio, we had over 1,400 people who were putting in 20, 30, 40 hours a week, and we empowered them. In a difficult decision, and after a struggle with people who'd done campaigns before, we actually gave volunteers log-ins to our databases, access to all the other volunteers in their area, and told them to get the job done."[209]

"The scale of voter contact that we achieved was pretty enormous. What allowed us to grow exponentially at the end was the base of super volunteers that we had. You can't, with just a couple hundred staff in a state, put on the kind of operation we had. Traditionally, Democrats have two or three hundred giant labor union parking lots full of canvassers the final weekend. We wanted 1.400 across a state like Ohio. Living rooms, garages, and backyards were going to be our staging areas. I think we got it done."[210]

"An enormous benefit we had [was the fact that] we walked into the general election with 500 staff who'd been through hell and back for 15 months," says Carson. "They started as organizers in the early states. They all turned into regional field directors. So we were walking in with this incredibly young, but incredibly experienced and talented group of people, who'd seen six election days. They'd seen volunteers of different types in six or seven different states. When you talk about mistakes in field, it's not enormous strategic mistakes; it's a thousand of them every single day. Is the office messy when you walk in? Are volunteers taken care of when they come in? So a strength that we had was that many of our field organizers had been volunteers. We pin accountability on them from the very beginning. We had a centralized database. If your doors or phone contacts weren't in there, they didn't count for anything."[211]

Volunteers as Validators

Carson says that to win Republican states, it took volunteers talking to their neighbors to apply peer pressure to get them to vote for Obama.[212] "The mission we were given on the persuasion side was that our volunteers would really be validators. To win these Republican states, you have to persuade people who had never voted for a Democrat before. A lot of that is peer pressure, frankly. And so we put a top premium on local volunteers talking to their neighbors, and the mission that David gave us was having these volunteers be up to date with what was going on."[213]

"If we were putting out a new ad, our volunteers knocking doors that night should know what it was. That system was difficult to put in place, but I think we got there. At the end of the day, die most effective thing someone was able to say at the door was why they were supporting Barack Obama. [What mattered] was the fact that their neighbor was there saying, "this is okay, let's vote for this guy.""[214]

"We have some data on what the field effort was able to do in terms of persuasion. We had two tracks going on. We were constantly identifying people through paid phones. We saw that repeated contact by their neighbors resulted in higher support for Senator Obama."[215]

Field Information Campaign

Carson says that the campaign put a premium on organizing events that would get on the news because that is where a lot of people get their information from.[216] "The other lesson that we carried from the primaries into the general was a concept I called field information campaigns. Traditionally, Democrats rent some vans, drive around, throw people in the van, take them to the court house, and vote them. We knew that our supporters were energized. Maybe they hadn't voted before, perhaps they hadn't been registered but they wanted to participate."[217]

"We put a premium on just getting [needed] information out there [using] our massive internet advertising program and having field people focus on building a crowd in front of an early voting location in North Carolina, to get it on the six o'clock news. Far more people were going to get information [from such a news segment] on how to do it, and show up and vote, than you ever could have driven there one at a time."[218]

Innovative Use of Advertising on the Internet

The internet had been used in previous campaigns notably the Howard Dean primary campaign in 2004. But the Obama campaign developed several new internet tactics, for example placing ads on google targeted at key caucus states in the primaries. "The best story on that was the Hawaii caucus," says Carson.[219] "Wisconsin and Hawaii were the same day. CNN calls Wisconsin for Obama at about 8:30 central time. It's five hours until the caucuses start in Hawaii. We had the lookup tool. Wolf Blitzer mentioned that there's a caucus later in Hawaii. When you typed that into Google, our ad popped up. 6,000 people looked up their location from the time they (the networks] called Wisconsin until the start of the Hawaii caucus. Only 18,000 showed up for that caucus in support of us. The look-up tool probably won us two convention delegates. So that's what I think is transformational. There have always been people who wanted to get involved. Now we can find out that they looked it up and call them back the same day."[220]

The campaign used YouTube, video games, social networking sites, and text messaging to raise money and organize supporters.[221] "Our online efforts were a net, there weren't our engine," says Carson.[222] "What the online efforts allowed us to do was grab people quickly."[223]

Get Out the Vote Campaign

The Get out the Vote (GOTV) was key to winning the election.[224] "Our Get out the Vote (GOTV) efforts were the culmination of this empowerment strategy. We went after weak voting Democrats wherever they were. In southeast Ohio, we were knocking on doors in precincts that had never seen it before. Our organization allowed us to do that."[225]

"We do believe we turned out a lot more of our sporadic voters and new voters to vote early than the Republicans did. And that held across all the states that had significant early voting. Here we have the final results. We had the ground to ourselves. For months, we were able to build an enormous organization. Those field operations we had in Oregon, Washington, Maine, Minnesota, who had no air cover, had no support, were getting the job done, were gelling those ballots in, those vote by mail states, so that all the resources could be pushing the envelope out in those other stales.[226]

Spending Money Early to Build Infrastructure

"Money you spend in June is about five times as valuable as what you spend in the last week," says Carson after the election was over, referring to the value of building a campaign infrastructure in states like North Carolina and Indiana that proved to be unusually competitive in the fall.[227]

Using Voters in Non-Critical States

Carson says that the campaign used supporters in states that were not as critical to the campaign to reach voters in the more critical states:[228] "There were two very distinct organizations. There were the targeted states and then there were the non-targeted states," says Carson.[229] "The fact that we did have an organization in the non-targeted states, I think was unusual. It was primarily focused at finding out of state volunteers. To just give you a sense of scale in the [final] four days [of the election, October 31- November 3, 2008], our non-targeted states focused on making calls into the targeted states and they made 13,000,000 of them. . . . We had an unbelievably large total of people willing to give 10 to 40 hours or more a week of their time.”[230]

Using Peer Pressure to Influence Voters

Shelly Palmer wrote in sys-con media on July 2, 2012 that campaign insiders in Obama's 2008 election have a different view of what swung the 2008 election in their favor than the conventional wisdom. Jon Carson, Obama’s 2008 national field director, says that the focus on the campaign’s use of social media tools “was misinterpreted by the press a lot,” adding, “Our online efforts were a net, they weren’t the engine. At the end of the day, vote contact happened because trained field organizers got their volunteers into a system that was getting door knocked and phone calls made… To win these Republican states, you have to persuade a lot of people who have never voted for a Democrat before. A lot of that is peer pressure, frankly. And so we put a top premium on local volunteers talking to their neighbors.”[231]

Campaign Activities of National Field Operations in the General Election in 2008

Obama supporters man phone banks in New Hampshire. http://www.flickr.com/photos/chicagopublicradio/2180207895/ Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) Photo Credit: chicagopublicmedia

Cast a Wide Net during General Election

On June 16, 2008 Jay Newton-Small reported in Time Magazine that the Obama campaign had 15 full-time paid staffers in Georgia as well as staff in North Carolina and Virginia and had been "literally moving in dozens of people every week to all three states," says Carson.[232] The campaign also expected to have staff in Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana before the end of June.[232] "It's very hard to sit here right now to say what's going to happen in November... Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Montana, North Dakota, Missouri — which of those is going to be most winnable? So our campaign is taking the approach of casting a wide net," says Carson.[232]

On August 15, 2008 Shaila Dewan reported in the New York Times that Carson says that the Obama campaign was still ramping up but that they planned to have field offices contesting the presidential race in all fifty states.[233] Carson says that voter registration drives were important but that the campaign would not use the same strategy in all states.[233] "Arkansas is a state where persuasion, I think, is going to be a larger factor than a massive registration program," Carson said.[233]

Get the Election Back on Track

Amanda Scott wrote on September 14, 2010 that Carson had sent out a memo asking supporters to talk to voters across the country and make sure they know what this election is really about.[234] "There's so much at stake in this election -- fixing our economy, solving the energy crisis, dealing with climate change, and restoring America's position in the world. You and I know that. But John McCain is trying to distract voters from the real issues. And he's willing to take the low road by making cheap personal attacks and lying outright about Barack and his record," wrote Carson.[234] "With less than eight weeks until Election Day, we can't allow voters to lose focus on the big issues and get swept up by the smears and lies coming out of the McCain campaign. Reach out to fellow voters now and grow this movement for change."[234]

Register the People You Know

"The Obama campaign took ownership of getting voters registered," says Carson.[235] Photo: Philadelphia Voter registration Drive by Barack Obama. Flickr Creative Commons. Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Amanda Scott writes that on September 21, 2010 Carson sent a memo urging Obama supporters to register the people they know.[236] "Think of all the people you know -- your friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors. What if every one of them voted on Election Day? That's a lot of votes. But odds are, many of them aren't registered -- or aren't sure if they are," wrote Carson.[236] "This election is going to be incredibly close, and we need every single vote we can get to win. But almost everywhere in the country, there are only a couple of weeks left before your registration deadline."[236]

"The Obama campaign took ownership of getting voters registered," says Carson.[237] "And, I think, we significantly changed the electorate in a bunch of these states. Reporters would ask, "How did early vote change your strategy?" It didn't change our strategy. It was our strategy. We sat down and says "where early vote is no excuse, and convenient, we will begin the day that early votes start." [We engaged in] voter contact as though it was Election Day. We really learned how to use early vote in North Carolina during that primary. They have a fantastic system of one stop early voting there. You can register and vote at the same time."[238]

Promote Early Voting

One thing that was different about the 2008 election is that the campaign had ample resources to mount it own voter registration and mobilization efforts and apply a broad array of innovative technologies as targeting tools to identify persuade, and turn out voters who were likely to vote for Obama.[239] For example, Carson says that campaign knew exactly who had and who hadn't voted already.[240] "When you're talking about early vote to a community that's incredibly motivated to vote for your candidate," the voters just needed to know where to go.[241] "Reporters would ask, 'How did early vote change your strategy?'" says Carson.[242] "It didn't change our strategy. It was our strategy."[243]

USA Today reported on September 21, 2008 that early voting had begun in some states and that during the next few weeks at least 34 states would allow early voting in the election.[244] The boom in early voting is fed by election officials' desire to expand turnout without overwhelming polls.[244] In past elections, Democratic candidates sent absentee ballot applications or mailers urging an early vote to their most passionate, reliable supporters.[245] That helped bank a decent number of votes ahead of time, but it also meant that the get-out-the-vote work on Election Day was that much harder, because the people who needed more encouragement to actually head to the polls did not become the campaign's focus until the last minute.[245] "When it comes to our efforts on the ground, at the door, on the phones ... we [now] tend to aim those efforts at our supporters who have the weakest voting history," says Carson.[245] "We go through massive efforts to make sure our supporters know all the ways that they can vote," says Carson.[244] On October 24, 2008 Carson sent out a memo on the state of the early vote that says that "Democrats are voting early at significantly higher rates than Republicans compared to 2004 and new and sporadic voting Democrats are voting early at higher rates than new or sporadic voting Republicans."[246] Carson says the early voting effort was capturing a new segment of the electorate.[247] "In some states, as many as a one-third of those who are turning out are either first-time voters or ones who haven't voted in last two election cycles," says Carson, citing Iowa and North Carolina.[247]

"There were a lot of questions about early vote," says Carson.[248] "We won't know what happened in the election until voter files are repopulated and we see who actually voted. Did we win because we turned out more people, or because we switched votes? We don't know that yet, but we do see from early voting that if we talked to people, and they were sporadic voters, 8 percent more of them turned out and voted early. We had slightly more marginal affect on likely voters. If you're a fired up 84-year-old grandmother, and we told you how to vote early, you're going lo make sure your sporadic voting kids and grand kids are doing it too. So that was the strategy."[249]

Final Debate Watch Parties

On October 13, 2010 Carson urged Obama supporters across the country to get together for the final presidential debate.[250] "It's the last chance for undecided voters to see Barack and John McCain side-by-side and determine who will bring the change this country needs. And it will be the final time before election night to come together in this way with your friends, family, and fellow supporters," wrote Carson.[250] "If you've joined us for an event before, you know how powerful they can be to help build support and grow our movement. If you haven't, it's a terrific way to connect with fellow supporters and folks who may just be making up their minds."[250]

Last Call for Change

Democratic Presidential Nominee, Senator Barack Obama makes phone calls with volunteers in Obama for America campaign office in Pittsburgh, PA on Monday, October 27, 2008. On October 31, 2008 Carson says that Obama staffers are focused on election night.[251] "We are solely focused on doing what we need to do to get the votes to elect Senator Obama," says Carson.[251] Photo: David Katz/Obama for America http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimmyrobinson/3208569256/ Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

"Last Call for Change" was a tactic designed by Carson and California organizer Mary Jane Stevenson to harness the energy of volunteers who couldn't travel to battleground states.[252] The campaign built targeted lists based on predictive data in all of the battleground states, and California took the lead on calling through them, ultimately identifying voters who could be counted on to vote for Obama.[252] As the lists expanded, the California phone bank volunteer recruitment expanded and new volunteers flooded in eager to do something to help Barack Obama win the election.[252] On election day, California volunteers got on their own phones and managed to make an astonishing 2 million calls into battleground states.[252] "We're waging a very aggressive campaign to use our network of neighborhood volunteers to persuade voters wherever they are," says Carson.[253]

"Take the day off for Barack on Election Day and volunteer"

"Take the day off for Barack on Election Day and volunteer," emailed Carson the week before the election.[254] "There was a link to click and fill out your pledge to 'take the day off and make history.' I filled out my name and other contact info and I'm planning to be a Poll Watcher at my local polling station. I go to training on November 2," wrote Michelle Kloske from Huntsville, Alabama.[254] "On Saturday, I was told [by Carson] I could either take the day off on Election Day to do GOTV activities, like making calls, watching the polls, and driving voters to the polls. Two links were provided... . The email specifically targeted the grassroots of the organization and emphasized that no experience was required. Again, a donate button trails at the bottom of the message," wrote Marie Ryan McMillian from Juneau, Alaska.[254]

Focus on Election Day

On October 31, 2008 Carson says that Obama staffers are focused on election night.[251] "We are solely focused on doing what we need to do to get the votes to elect Senator Obama," says Carson.[251] "We are going to be knocking on doors up until five minutes before the polls close," says Carson.[255] On October 31, 2008 Carson announced that although there had been speculation that Obama might make a campaign appearance in McCain's home state of Arizona, it was not going to happen.[256] "We have announced our schedule through Monday night, and we will not be visiting Arizona," Carson said.[256] "If the election were six or seven days away, I suspect Senator Obama would make a visit."[256]

Carson Considered for Campaign Manager For Obama Campaign in 2008

President Barack Obama talks with Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau and Senior Advisor David Plouffe in the Oval Office on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011. At one point in the general election campaign, David Plouffe, the campaign manager for the Obama campaign, considered stepping down for personal reasons and recommended to David Axelrod, that Carson could fill in for him.[257] (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

At one point in the general election campaign, David Plouffe, the campaign manager for the Obama campaign, considered stepping down for personal reasons and recommended to David Axelrod, that Carson could fill in for him.[258]

"My wife had decided to leave Chicago and return to Washington in August [2008]," wrote Plouffe in his campaign autobiography The Audacity to Win, "in order to be with family and old friends for the last months of her pregnancy, and to allow our son to settle into a new hometown and start preschool with the rest of his class. Unfortunately the home we would be moving back into was being renovated, meaning my four-year-old and his extremely pregnant mother would spend two months staying with various friends and family, hoping the house would be ready before the baby came. I knew it would be tough and I couldn't stomach not being there to help. Barack was not happy with my decision. He had come to lean on me and we had developed a solid relationship. There was also a comfort factor; with everything else Obama needed to do. he did not want to have to adjust to a new manager to boot."[259]

"I thought perhaps Jon Carson, who had masterfully managed our state operations in the primary, could step in. I tried to get Ax's approval on this, and he shrugged his shoulders. 'Sure, Carson would be great. But you're not going to leave as manager. Obama simply won't allow it.' Barack told me to hire as many people as I wanted to help ease the load but insisted I stay in place as manager, driving and making big decisions as others handled more execution. "I just want to know you are managing the process," he said, "and ultimately making the big strategic decisions. And I want to keep the relationship you and I have had, talking through everything every day."[260]

"This didn't address my central problem, which was a need to be with my family. Our senior staff was terrific—I certainly did not think it wise to make any broad expansions to our existing tight unit. I was also exhausted and thought a fresh and singularly focused manager might serve the campaign in its home stretch."[261]

Member of Obama's Transition Team

One day after Obama's victory, Carson reported to work as a member of Obama's transition team.[262] On December 11, 2008 Gillian Reagan reported in the New York Observer that Jon Carson had attended a summit in Chicago of President-elect Barack Obama's key organizers during his campaign "to brainstorm on what to do with the huge grassroots network and how they can continue to mobilize their online and offline organizers during the new administration."[263] The goals of the new network are to "rally support for the legislative agenda," to support candidates, to tap into volunteerism and promote a two-way conversation between the Obama Presidency and the electorate.[263]

"As President-elect Obama takes office and a legislative agenda is put together," Carson says, "I think in the same way these incredible volunteers that we had carried his message throughout the campaign, talking to their neighbors about why he was the right candidate to bring the change that we needed — I can see them, in a similar way, explaining a health care proposal, explaining whatever issue it is."[264]

Chief of Staff at the White House's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in 2009

White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley and CEQ Chief of Staff Jon Carson at the USA Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo on November 17, 2010.[265]

Josh Gerstein reported in the Politico on July 10, 2009 that Carson had been appointed chief of staff at the Council on Environmental Quality, where he is on the front lines in the battle against global warming.[266] The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) coordinates Federal environmental efforts and works closely with agencies and other White House offices in the development of environmental policies and initiatives.[267] CEQ was established within the Executive Office of the President by Congress as part of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) and additional responsibilities were provided by the Environmental Quality Improvement Act of 1970.[267] In addition, CEQ oversees the Office of the Federal Environmental Executive. The role of the Federal Environmental Executive is to promote sustainable environmental stewardship throughout the Federal government.[267] The CEQ reports annually to the President on the state of the environment; oversees federal agency implementation of the environmental impact assessment process; and acts as a referee when agencies disagree over the adequacy of such assessments.[268]

Carson reports to Nancy Helen Sutley who leads the White House Council on Environmental Quality.[269] Sutley received a Master of Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and an undergraduate degree from Cornell University.[269] Sutley was an EPA official during the Clinton administration, and served as special assistant to the EPA administrator in Washington, D.C. Sutley is the first prominent gay person to earn a senior role in Obama's new administration.[269] She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate through unanimous consent on January 22, 2009. Prior to being confirmed by the Senate to lead the CEQ, Sutley served as the Deputy Mayor for Energy and Environment for the city of Los Angeles, California, and as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's appointment to the Board of Directors for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.[269]

Gertstein reports that "the peripatetic Carson had little trouble scoring a job for himself but has entered White House lore with the longest official federal job application in memory."[270] “I’ve moved 38 times over the last 15 years,” says Carson.[271] “It was actually kind of fun to put that together.”[272]

Placing Obama workers slots in Government

On July 10, 2009 Josh Gerstein wrote that Carson is making a "determined and methodical effort to get dedicated Obama workers slots in the government."[273] “A lot of people just blow this stuff off. I blow this stuff off,” one White House official said, referring to the job-seeking entreaties of former campaign staffers.[274] “Carson is much more diligent about this than almost anyone I’ve run into and much more assiduous about pursuing leads for people.”[275]

“I got to know an awful lot of people, just some incredible people who gave up careers they had in other areas,” Carson told POLITICO.[276] “As different agencies are staffing up, ... I wouldn’t say I’ve placed people; I’d say there’s a wealth of people to recommend.”[277]

Youth Clean Energy Economy Forum

Jon Carson speaks at the Youth Clean Energy Economy Forum at the White House on December 2, 2009.

On December 2, 2009 four members of President Obama’s Cabinet hosted a Clean Energy Economy Forum with youth leaders from around the country at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar , Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, and other Administration officials will reiterate the need for a comprehensive energy plan that puts America back in control of its energy future.[278]

Carson moderated the Youth Clean Energy Economy Forum on December 2, 2009.[279] Carson told the group that all of us in this administration share this vision of what the clean energy economy will be but this group is the group who will live in this world.[280] "You are the most important stakeholders in clean energy because you will live in this world. You are the group who will make this a reality or not," says Carson.[281] "The stakes are higher for you than for any other group we have met with."[282]

After the Youth Clean Energy Economy Forum, one of attendees at the conference, Zachary Stark-MacMillan of Cascade Climate Network wrote an open letter to Carson about the conference. Stark-MacMillan wrote that the climate change movement was different than past movements.[283] "You told us to look at the big picture and not focus on what hasn’t been done, but look at how far we have come. I think that, generally, this is a good idea, and for any other movement I would agree with you. But we are not like past movements," wrote Stark-MacMillan.[284] "The Woman’s and civil rights movements did not have a deadline where if they didn’t succeeded, they never would. We have a deadline; not arbitrarily set by us, but dictated by science. If the temperature rises more than 2 degrees, feedback cycles in the environment will begin and there will be nothing we can do to stop them."[285]

Stark-MacMillan added that "if the administration keeps talking about ‘clean coal’, subsides for nuclear power, and 450ppm of carbon in the atmosphere instead of 350ppm, then we have serious disagreements. We need to resolve these issues and move forward together, before we end up fighting each other. We elected President Obama to be a leader on climate change, we would like him to start leading with strong and specific goals, and we will support him."[286]

Gone Fishin'

On April 28, 2010 Carson wrote on the Council on Environmental Quality Blog that he and Amy Salzman, Associate Director of Policy Outreach at CEQ, had celebrated Earth Day by starting the work day with a fishing trip on the Potomac River to take part in the Jim Range National Casting Call, an annual event hosted by the American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA).[287] "The event provided an opportunity for us to learn more about public/private partnerships that exist in the area of fish conservation and aquatic habitats, such as the National Fish Habitat Action Plan," wrote Carson.[288] "These are the types of innovative, locally driven partnerships that the Administration is trying to encourage and support through the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, which President Obama launched earlier this month."[289]

Climate Activism with 350.org

YourOliveBranch.org reported on October 11, 2010 that Carson spoke to hundreds of 350.org organizers in a conference call from Washington.[290] "The number one lesson we learned in the Obama campaign is that people respond to an effort that is getting something done," says Carson.[290] "Tangible change in people’s back yards is what brings more people to the fold. That’s what you guys are doing tomorrow and that’s what it’s going to take to grow this movement."[290] When Carson was asked during the conference call about the lack of progress on clean energy during the Obama administration, Carson replied that "one lesson that we learned in this administration is never give up."[291] When Carson was asked as an organizer what advice he had for the people taking part in the environmental movement he replied that they shouldn't let themselves become discouraged.[292] "Read some history about movements in the past - the ups and downs. The fact of the matter is that compared to other movements, the environmental movement has been tremendously successful."[293] Carson also advised activists to enjoy the effort.[294] "While we are dealing about such an incredibly important issue, take time to have some fun. It is the future generation we are fighting for but we have to have fun while we are taking part in this effort."[295]

Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Public Engagement in 2011

President Barack Obama drops by a meeting with PowerShift Leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, April 15, 2011. Seated next to President Obama are Nancy-Ann DeParle, Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, and Jon Carson, Director of the Office of Public Engagement. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Jon Carson's office as Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Public Engagement is on the second floor of the West Wing next to Valerie Jarrett, Senior Adviser to the President.
President Barack Obama meets with Senior Advisor Pete Rouse, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, Counsel to the President Bob Bauer, Chief of Staff Bill Daley, Senior Advisor David Plouffe, and Deputy Chief of Staff for Ops Jim Messina in the Oval Office, Jan. 7, 2011. As Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Public Engagement, Carson reports to Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett. Carson previously reported to Senior Advisor David Plouffe as part of the Obama campaign and at one point was under consideration for Campaign Manager For Obama Campaign when Plouffe wanted to leave the campaign to spend more time with his family.(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Director of the Office of Public Engagement Jon Carson meet with Jewish leaders on the "When You See Something, Say Something” campaign's first faith-based partnership in the Rooselvelt Room of the White House, June 10, 2011.[296] (DHS Photo by Barry Bahler)

Carson Appointment

On January 27, 2011, Obama White House Chief of Staff William M. Daley announced that Carson will lead the Office of Public Engagement, filling the vacancy left by Tina Tchen, who became first lady Michelle Obama's chief of staff.[297] Carson's title is Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Public Engagement.[298] Carson's office as Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Public Engagement is on the second floor of the West Wing.[299] Carson reports to Valerie Jarrett, Senior Adviser to the President[300] and his office is next to hers in the West Wing.[299] Carson's annual salary as head of the Office of Public Engagement is $153,000.[5]

Mission of the Office of Public Engagement

The Office of Public Engagement seeks to allow the views of the ordinary American citizen to be more readily heard within the administration.[301] The Office also seeks to coordinate events that bring members of the administration in contact with members of the public.[301] The "town-hall" style meetings held by President Barack Obama since being elected are an example of this policy at work.[301] The Office also acts as a cheerleader for the administration and seeks to ensure, along with the Office of Communications, the coordination of the administration message amongst different departments in order to ensure full and balanced exposure.[301]

"OPE will help build relationships with Americans by increasing their meaningful engagement with the federal government," says a statement from the White House Office of the Press Secratary in March 2009 announcing that the Office of Public Liaison would be renamed the Office of Public Engagement.[300] "Serving as the front door to the White House, OPE will allow ordinary Americans to offer their stories and ideas regarding issues that concern them and share their views on important topics such as health care, energy and education. In addition to its traditional White House operations, OPE will now also focus on getting information from the American people outside the Washington beltway through special public events as well as activities on the web site. The office will have a strong on-line presence, including blog postings from OPE staff and other interactive elements."[300]

Tina Tcehn, Obama's first Director of the Office of Public Engagement says that OPE has traditionally had been the outreach office for White House, the liaison between the White House and the various national organizations headquartered in Washington who have Washington representatives.[302] "But something the president very much wanted to convey was that this was a White House that would interact with people across the country and with people who are individuals and grassroots and not just folks as part of organizations," says Tcehn.[303] "So as part of that re-missioning that he gave us about a month ago, we renamed ourselves the Office of Public Engagement. And we had a new charge from him to really do that kind of grassroots across the country outreach and have a real two-way conversation going between the American public and the White House."[304]

"I think working with groups that have membership organizations, you know, and member - individual members across the country is always important," adds Tchen.[305] "And we're continuing to do those efforts. But in addition, for example, we are expanding our presence on whitehouse.gov and you can see the video from the president where he talks about the change to the Office of Public Engagement. You know, my staff have been blogging about the events that we have here in the White House, so people can get a behind-the-scenes look. And people can sign up to receive emails from the White House about what's going on. So those are some of the ways. I think we're going to continue to explore. This is very new, on how do you really reach people in new ways. And, you know, we will look forward to continuing to come up with new ideas."[306]

Criticism of the Office of Public Engagement

K. Daniel Glover reported in July 2009 in "Accuracy in Media" that the Obama White House has the 11 employees in the Office of Public Engagement.[307] "Obama’s Office of Public Engagement replaced the more traditional Office of Public Liaison. The mission is the same-to connect the public with the White House-but the techniques are different. Obama’s team has incorporated online video, blogs and other interactive elements, including tightly managed town halls, into the outreach mix," writes Glover.[308] "Obama also quadrupled the size of the public liaison staff. According to the last Bush administration staff salary report, President Bush employed three people in his liaison office at a cost of $335,500."[309]

Glover is critical of the expansion of the White House's communications staffing which he says costs the taxpayer $5 million dollars annually.[310] "It’s obvious from the way the White House has been controlling reporters at press conferences, producing its own pool reports and orchestrating faux town halls that Obama wants even more unfiltered control over both his message and his public image than past presidents," writes Glover.[311] "The Obama media machine is up and running, but it could backfire if the media gain some self-respect and tire of being manipulated on behalf of the President’s image and agenda."[312]

Conservative political commentator Michelle Malkin[313][314] writes on July 5, 2011 that the "murky office of public engagement was refashioned by Jarrett from the former Office of Public Liaison to do things like push the costly failed 2016 Olympics bid by her old friend and employer former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley."[315] "More recently, the well-compensated 'engagers' have been busy organizing town hall cheerleading sections for Obama across the country and online to bolster his base, galvanize 'community leaders' and appease the commander in chief's left flank. On Wednesday, in an effort to "double down" on their "online engagement efforts," as an administration aide told The New York Times, Obama will participate in a 'Twitter Town Hall.'"[316]

Staffing in the Office of Public Engagement

The White House web page for the Office of Public Engagement shows that as of February 15, 2011 the office has 25 staff members including Jon Carson, Michael Strautmanis (Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor for Strategic Engagement to the Senior Advisor), Brian Bond (Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement), Greg Nelson (Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement), Ashley Baia (Associate Director), Michael Blake (Associate Director, White House Office of Public Engagement & Deputy Associate Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs), Danielle Borrin (Associate Director, White House Office of Public Engagement & Special Assistant, Office of the Vice President), Shasti Conrad (Executive Assistant to Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett), Kareem Dale (Associate Director, White House Office of Public Engagement & Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy), Monique Dorsainvil, Robert Fee, Sara Feuerstein, Charles Galbraith, William Jawando, Bryan Jung, Jenny Yeager Kaplan, Lisa Kohnke, Kalpen Modi, Alexander Lasry, Kyle Lierman, D. Paul Monteiro, Darienne M. Page, Karen Richardson, Smrthi Sathe, and Stephanie Valencia.[317]

Major Activities/Meetings in the OPE

April 15, 2011: President Obama Joins Carson in Meeting with Powershift Leaders

On April 15, 2011, President Barack Obama dropped by a meeting with PowerShift Leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House and was seated next to Jon Carson, Director of the Office of Public Engagement.[318] The young people expressed concerns with aspects of Obama's energy policy, particularly ongoing reliance on dirty energy sources like coal, nuclear, and natural gas. The young leaders also voiced concerns about continued subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.[318] The President reminded the young leaders that they have the power to change this country and that grassroots organizing in communities and states will help move our nation on energy and climate.[318]

April 23, 2011: Carson Receives Credit for White House Outreach to Progressive Leaders

Mike Lux wrote in the Huffington Post on April 23, 2011 that there has recently been a real change in the political attitude and strategy toward the base in general, and progressive leaders in particular, that there hasn't been a "professional left" (as former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called progressive leaders) bashing incident, for which the Rahm-led White House was famous, in several months, and that a wide variety of progressive opinion leaders (and not just D.C. insiders) have been invited in, called on a regular basis, invited to outreach meetings of the kind people had not been invited to before.[319] "New Office of Public Engagement head Jon Carson deserves a lot of the credit for this, but it hasn't only been him," writes Lux.[320] "Bill Daley, for example, has picked up the phone to call multiple people in progressive politics, and has done things like an extended one-on-one sit-down with Howard Dean. It is good to see this contrast with the Rahm White House."[321]

"I still have very big concerns about the strategy the Obama team is pursuing, both on economics and on politics," writes Lux.[322] "But the new approach to progressives opens the door to making progress on these issues, and the fight over the Ryan budget unifies us and gives us a huge opportunity for messaging going forward. It sure does make for an interesting next year and a half."[323]

May 18, 2011: Carson Moderates Panel on Building Bridges: Diasporas, their Homelands and the US

On May 18, 2011 Carson moderated a plenary panel session on Building Bridges: Diasporas, their Homelands and the US[324] at Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Global Diaspora Forum at the Department of State.[325] Carson's panel included prominent Americans from a wide array of public and private fields who discussed how to achieve success in the United States an also remain engaged with, contribute to development in, and establish links between the United States an their countries of origin or ancestry.[324] Panelists included Semhar Araia, Executive Director, Diaspora African Women's Network, John Calvelli, Secretary, National Italian-American Foundation, Dr. Johnnetta Cole, Ph.D., Director, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Farooq Kathwari, CEO, Ethan Allen Furniture, Inc., and Duy-Loan Le, Senior Fellow, Texas Instruments.[324]

June 10, 2011: Carson Meets with Jewish Leaders

On June 10, 2011 Carson and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano met with Jewish leaders from across the country to highlight the important role of faith-based leaders in providing guidance and assistance to their organizations and institutions regarding ways to protect against terrorism and other threats.[296]

July 8, 2011: Carson Moderates Briefings for Community Leaders

Carson moderated a meeting on July 8, 2011 with 150 community stakeholders/leaders from across the country who traveled to the White House to hear status and updates from the Obama administration, to discuss issues affecting their communities and to give Administration staff the opportunity to hear what is going on in cities and towns across the country from the "experts" in the field.[326] The Community Leaders Briefings was put together to "empower you with knowledge to take back to the community" says Michael Strautmanis, Deputy Assistant to the President and Counselor for Strategic Engagement to Carson.[326] Carson moderated the discussion on issues that ranged from funding being cut from non-profit programming to public perception of the White House messaging--all of which was followed up with "these are stories we need to hear. Let's stay in touch about this issue after today."[326] Carson's White House Office of Public Engagement will continue to hold a series of "Community Leaders Briefing[s]" each Friday throughout the summer until August 26.[326]

July 20, 2011: Carson Listed as Potential Speaker for Fund Raising in the Speaker Series

Lynn Sweet reported in the Chicago Sun Times on July 20, 2011 that Carson is one of twenty-one potential speakers listed on an invitation to pay $5,000 for an "annual membership" in a new "speakers series" featuring present and former Obama White House officials such as Valerie Jarrett, David Plouffe, Robert Gibbs and David Axelrod.[327] "The series was developed by Obama's fund-raising team to market to donors and bundlers -- people who tap into their personal networks to raise money for a candidate -- who may not be at the elite levels and therefore cannot get to intimate $35,000 events with President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle or Vice President Joe Biden," writes Sweet.[327] Members of the speaker series include David Axelrod, Jeremy Bird, Carol Browner, Jon Carson, Stephanie Cutter, Nancy-Ann Deparle, Patrick Gaspard, Robert Gibbs, Valerie Jarrett, Alyssa Mastromonaco, Jim Messina, David Plouffe, Joe Rospars, Pete Rouse, David Simas, Julianna Smoot, Mitch Stewart, Nancy Sutley, Mona Sutphen, Tina Tchen, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.[327]

July 25, 2011: Carson Meets with National Rural Council

On July 25, 2011 Carson, Doug McKalip of the White House Domestic Policy Council, and Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack held a White House briefing on the formation of the National Rural Council for 24 invited rural leaders.[328] Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack, who co-chairs the council with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, says the Council would set up “listening” sessions across the country, called "rural roundtables," so that administration officials could hear directly from rural communities.[328][329]

July 26, 2011: Carson Speaks to Students about Debt Ceiling Agreement and its Effect on Student Loans

Tyler Kingcade reports that Carson participated on a call President Obama made in July, 2011 with students who are concerned that young people would shoulder much of the burden of spending cuts in a deal to raise the debt ceiling.[330] "White House officials, such as Gene Sperling, counsel to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Jon Carson and other public engagement staffers spoke with them on the call," writes Kingkade.[330] "[Carlos] Reyes did not provide details of the call, and the White House explicitly says media was not allowed on the line, but he did say the staff members were very "engaged" in the conversation."[330]

July 28, 2011: Carson Meets with Jewish Social Justice Roundtable

On July 28, 2011 Carson participated in a meeting with the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable (JSJRT) at the White House Community Leaders Briefing Series, a summer-long opportunity for grassroots leaders to engage White House officials and voice their issues that runs from June 17 to August 26, 2011.[331] “I’m not here to talk,” says Carson.[331] “I’m here to listen about what you’re seeing across the country.” For many in Hazon’s cohort and millions of American Jews, this issue is food justice.[331]

August 1, 2011: Carson Meets with Veteran Groups about Debt Ceiling Agreement

Steve Vogel reported in the Washington Post that representatives of veterans groups met with White House officials on August 1, 2011 to express their concern that veterans benefits and compensation would be safe from across-the-board spending cuts that could be triggered by the debt agreement under consideration.[332] Carson told veterans representatives at the White House briefing that veterans benefits would be exempt, according to a veterans’ representative at the meeting.[332]

August 1, 2011: Carson Makes Pitch to Progressive Organizations and Labor Groups about Debt Ceiling Strategy

Sam Stein reported in the Huffington Post on August 1, 2011 that the debt ceiling bill set to be voted upon the evening of August 1 has left labor advocates in yet another precarious -- and deeply frustrated -- position and according to several sources, Carson made several calls to progressive organizations and labor groups before the deal was announced on Sunday evening. "His pitch was simple: The debt ceiling forced the White House to confront a brutal situation, made more difficult by some factions of the Republican Party's willingness to witness a default," writes Stein. "The president, Carson added, would now be able to 'pivot' to job creation, including the creation of an infrastructure bank. By Monday morning, Carson's pitch was refined a bit further. Obama had protected Medicaid and Social Security from the first round of cuts. And while extending unemployment insurance wasn't in the final deal, as one White House official told The Huffington Post, 'we will absolutely keep pushing for that.'" "The slogan of this administration is 'it could have been worse.' Seriously, that is what they stand for," says one incredulous labor official according to Stein. "They say that they protected those programs."[333]

"We have now had at least three or more experiences of the president explaining to people that he has a plan and it is under control but the results don't match," says Andy Stern, former president of the Service Employees International Union. "He has an unreasonable Congress that doesn't respond to reason. So why continue to reason with them?"[334]

August 4, 2011: Carson Writes in Defense of Obama's Debt Ceiling Agreement

President Barack Obama meets with Congressional Leadership in the Cabinet Room of the White House to discuss ongoing efforts to find a balanced approach to the debt limit and deficit reduction, July 13, 2011. Pictured, from left, are: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

On August 4, 2011 Carson wrote a defense of Obama's position on the debt ceiling compromise on the official White House Blog about "some the most common misconceptions we’ve been hearing about the deal":[335]

Myth: President Obama caved.

Fact: President Obama laid out key priorities that had to be part of any deal. Those priorities are reflected in this compromise. First, we avoided default which would have plunged the economy into a deep recession, imperiling the well-being of millions of Americans. Second, the initial down payment on deficit reductions does not cut low-income and safety-net programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Third, we set up a path forward that will put pressure on Congress to adopt a balanced approach. And finally, we raised the debt ceiling until 2013, ensuring that House Republicans could not use the threat of default in just a few months to force severe cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Myth: Republicans got everything they wanted

Fact: They won’t admit it publicly, but when push came to shove, Republicans backed down on their key demands. For months, Republicans called for a budget that would have ended Medicare as we know it, made catastrophic cuts to Medicaid, or cut investments in education by 25 percent, clean energy by 70 percent and infrastructure spending by 30 percent. As if that wasn’t enough, they also demanded that we repeat this debt-ceiling crisis, just a few months from now.

None of these of these demands made it into a final deal.

Myth: This deal cuts Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

Fact: There are no changes to these programs included in the initial phase of this agreement. In the second phase of the agreement, everything will be on the table – and the President has made clear that the committee must pursue a balanced approach where reforms to programs like Medicaid, Social Security or Medicare would only be acceptable if coupled with higher revenues from the most fortunate.

Myth: This deal reduces the deficit entirely on the backs of the middle class.

Fact: While the initial down payment on deficit reduction - about $1 trillion – will require belt-tightening, it still will allow us to invest in the programs and priorities we care about most. Moreover, hundreds of billions of this initial round of cuts will come from security spending.

As we negotiated the domestic side of the cuts, we protected our historic new investments in Pell Grants as part of the down payment. For the second phase, we made sure that programs for the most vulnerable, like food stamps, Medicaid and the Earned Income Tax Credit, would not be hit by the “trigger,” the automatic cuts that will go into place if Congress does not find an acceptable compromise.

Myth: The joint committee -- the so-called "super committee" -- makes it easier for Congress to cut the programs we care about.

Fact: The joint committee system puts pressure on Republicans to seek compromise. As we all know, in this round of deficit reduction, there wasn’t a lot of leverage bringing Republicans to the table. In round two, that changes.

If Republicans aren't willing to compromise, then the joint committee will fail. This would automatically trigger an additional $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction designed to be painful for both sides, with half that coming from savings in the defense budget.

Myth: Since we weren’t able to raise revenues right now, we won’t be able to raise revenues in the future.

Fact: The deal lays out two paths for further reducing our deficit. Both of them include revenues. Option one is for the joint committee to develop a plan that is passed by both Houses of Congress, and signed by President Obama. The President has already says that he will only support a balanced approach involving shared sacrifice. That means raising revenue through steps such as closing loopholes for corporations, reforming our tax code, and asking millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share in taxes.

If the joint committee cannot develop a balanced compromise,that brings us to option two for raising revenues: the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. On January 1, 2013, President Obama can use his veto pen to end special tax breaks for high-income Americans if Congress votes to extend them.[335]

Carson's post was picked up and mentioned in several publications and was partially quoted in the Christian Science Monitor,[336] The Hill,[337] and The Daily Caller.[338].

Sam Stein reported on August 29, 2011 that the White House appears to have achieved one of its primary goals following the debt ceiling deal, with congressional Republicans showing little interest in extending budget fights through the fall. According to Stein, Carson and top economic adviser Gene Sperling stressed that the debt ceiling debate had been the one "brutal" battle that stood between the 2010 and 2012 elections and that the administration's chief objective, say Carson and Sperling, has been to lessen the bitterness of the pill the Democratic Party had to swallow. "There was agreement in the room that House Republicans were willing to push us overboard to make their agenda happen," says one labor source briefed on the pitch President Obama made to the AFL-CIO's Executive Council days after the deal was reached. "No one wants to focus on the deal that was made. They want to focus on what we can do to make the economy work going forward."[339]

August 18, 2011: Carson Meets with Young Entrepreneurs

Carson participated in a meeting at the White House on August 18, 2011 with young entrepreneurs called “Champions of Change,” to discuss their business ventures.[340] During the meeting Carson accidentally brushed against a large flag pole onstage and it tipped over heading for the chair of Erica Zidel but Alex Rincon jumped up and caught the flag just before it hit.[340] “That was a nice catch,” says Carson. “A very nice catch.”[340]

August 23, 2011: Carson Joins Congressman James E. Clyburn at Small Business Summit in South Carolina

Carson (left) seated next to 6th District Congressman James E. Clyburn on stage at an energy summit at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College in Orangeburg, South Carolina on August 23, 2011. In 2002 Congressman Clyburn criticized the Voter Registration Database that Carson helped develop in South Carolina that targeted African-American voters. "I think after 62 years on this Earth, I know a little bit about voters, particularly African-American voters," says Clyburn. (Photo: Larry Hardy)

Carson spoke to over 400 small and minority business entrepreneurs at a Department of Energy small business procurement summit in Orangeburg, South Carolina at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College on August 23, 2011 that he attended with Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and SBA Deputy Administrator Marie Johns.[341] The summit is part of a series of high-level events that the White House asked all Federal agencies to conduct[341] and this summit was designed to educate entrepreneurs on how the DOE supports small businesses.[342] "Our goal with these events is to create an unprecedented level of access to agency program buyers and representatives," says Carson.[341] "During the event in Orangeburg, over 26 program buyers and agency representatives attended from seven federal agencies, including Defense, GSA, and Health and Human Services."[341] "The Department of Energy is doing everything it can to partner with states," says Secretary of Energy Chu.[343] "We want to give you the tools so you will know exactly what you should be doing for the most efficient energy methods possible."[344]

Carson was seated on stage next to 6th District Congressman James E. Clyburn.[345] Clyburn says at the summit that Orangeburg County's jobless rate is 17.7 percent.[346] "This is not acceptable," says Clyburn.[347] "We must create jobs, and small businesses are the engines to create jobs in this country."[348]

Carson and Clyburn have an interesting connection that goes back to 2002 when Congressman Clyburn criticized the Voter Registration Database that Carson helped develop in South Carolina that targeted African-American voters.[349] Clyburn says party leaders ignored concerns he raised along with other black leaders that traditional methods such as yard signs, advertising in black newspapers, and neighborhood canvassing should be the focus of the campaign.[350] "I think after 62 years on this Earth, I know a little bit about voters, particularly African-American voters," says Clyburn.[351]

September 8, 2011: Carson Answers Questions About the President's American Jobs Act

On September 15, 2011 Carson and Brian Deese, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, answered questions from Facebook, Twitter, and WhiteHouse.gov on the President's American Jobs Act.

On September 8, 2011 a few hours before Obama spoke before a joint session of Congress to unveil his jobs program, Carson made a post to the OPE Blog asking that supporters of the President's plan to put America back to work make their voices heard.[352] "If you agree with President Obama’s vision – don’t stay silent," wrote Carson.[352] "We know how hard you worked this summer, and we know how busy you’ll be this fall, but if you want to see Washington put politics aside, and pass the President’s jobs plan – then let us hear from you."[352]

September 15, 2011: Carson and Brian Deese Answers Questions About the President's American Jobs Act

On September 15, 2011 Carson and Brian Deese, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, answered questions from Facebook, Twitter, and WhiteHouse.gov on the President's American Jobs Act. Questions addressed during the live chat included:

How does this bill help hiring overall? Why do prevailing wage rates have to apply? How will the American Jobs Act help those that want to work but first require additional training? How will this affect "99ers"--those that have exhausted their 99 weeks of unemployment insurance? Will this bill create or promote the creation of more green jobs? Where does national service fit into the American Jobs Act? As part of the plan will the White House support comprehensive tax reform? How will the funds be administered to ensure that they really reach those in need of jobs? What kind of jobs can the President create without Congressional approval? What is the strategy for gaining Republican support of the bill in the House? Is the American Jobs Act a tax increase for all Americans? What direct investments in public schools does this bill include? Who is the small business tax cut in the plan aimed at? What is Project Rebuild? What are the couple most noteworthy parts of the American Jobs Act?[353]

September 16, 2011: Carson Meets with Mayors of Border Communities

On September 16, 2011 Carson met with Mayor Arturo Garino of Nogales, NM, Mayor Ken Miyagishima of Las Cruces, NM and Mayor Tony Martinez of Brownsville, Texas as part of the Champions of Change meeting in the Truman Room at the White House.[354] According to Garino, Carson was "very interested to know what's going on with the border so he can relay the information to the president."[354] Mayor Garino emphasized that the federal government can help the U.S.-Mexico trade relationship by addressing issues like immigration reform.[354] "(Carson) was informed on problems and crime at the border, but he was not informed about the opportunities we have with Mexico," says Garino.[354] "They understand the security part of it, but they don't have a grasp on the whole thing. I guess they needed someone from Arizona that lives at the border to tell them what it's all about."[354]

October 14, 2011: Carson Meets with Catholic Charities

On October 14, 2011 Carson met with 160 leaders from Catholic Charities USA to discuss the economy, human services, housing and immigration. Carson called Catholic Charities “an incredible network of social service organizations” and added that he was looking forward to working “towards our shared goals.”[355]

October 25, 2011: Carson Organizes Thursday Evening Listening Sessions for Valerie Jarrett

Jason Horowitz reported in the Washington Post on October 25, 2011 that Carson has organized Thursday evening listening sessions with myriad constituencies for Jarrett. "Valerie Jarrett plays a lot of roles. She is the president’s closest personal adviser, the first couple’s first friend and the chief liaison for the White House. She has also, for many of the administration’s discouraged supporters, embodied Obama’s cold shoulder," writes Horowitz. "Since Obama’s numbers have taken a dive this year, constituencies started mattering more to this president, too. And, perhaps not coincidentally, Jarrett has become more available."[356]

October 26, 2011: Carson Moderates Discussion of Crisis in the Horn of Africa

On October 26, 2011 Carson moderated a a live streamed event with Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director of the National Security Council, and Raj Smith, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), on the crisis in the the Horn of Africa.[357]

On November 8, 2011 Carson wrote on the OPE blog that USAID has launched its first-ever public awareness campaign FWD (Famine. War. Drought.) to create nationwide awareness about the crisis in the Horn of Africa and to spur relief efforts for those affected and announced that he would be sitting down with Rebecca Gustafson and Members of the Response Management Team from USAID on November 9 for a conversation on Twitter about the crisis and how you and your community can be help.[358]

October 28, 2011: Carson Writes about CodeNow

On October 28, 2011 Carson posted a story on the OPE Blog about CodeNow, a non-profit that focuses on developing the next pioneers in technology by teaching underserved youth foundational skills in computer science and programming with the objective of narrowing the current digital divide.[359] "The organization teaches high school students the basics of computer programming and computer science in free, extra-curricular, off-campus trainings and boot camps. Each student who completes their program receives a netbook, mentoring and assistance finding internships," writes Carson.[359] "Working with numerous partners, the organization successfully launched its pilot program in DC in August. They plan to hold two more weekend trainings and a four-day boot camp by the end of 2011. In 2012 CodeNow will expand to four cities."[359]

November 3, 2011: Carson Meets with Student Leaders

Campus Times reported on November 3, 2011 that Carson along with Ronni Cho, the associate director of the Office of Public Engagement, and David Plouffe, senior advisor to President Obama, have participated in three conference calls within the last month as part of a nationwide initiative which connects student leaders directly with the White House. A monthly campus engagement call occurs between student body presidents of various schools across the country, while issue-based calls focus on current events and problems that affect students in the U.S. The White House has spearheaded this project from the start, setting up the conference calls and creating a national organization of campus leaders and the Students’ Association plans to participate as long as the schools and government remain enthusiastic and involved. “I think it will give insight into how the real government works and functions as opposed to student governments,” says Hanna Verhoeven. “It might strengthen these student organizations and drive further interest in people interested in political science.”[360]

November 4, 2011: Carson Meets with National Association of Convenience Stores

On November 4, 2011 Carson participated in a conference call with Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills with members of the National Association of Convenience Stores on how retailers could gain access to loans guaranteed by the SBA and on the president’s jobs bill.[361]

November 11, 2011: Washington Post Inquires into Carson email about Presidential Visit to Solyndra Plant

Bob King reported on November 11, 2011 on Politico that White House and Solyndra officials spent weeks in spring 2011 discussing a forthcoming Washington Post investigation[362] of President Barack Obama’s visits to clean-energy companies.[363] In an email on June 2, 2011 Greg Nelson, deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement wrote to Carson and two other White House officials to let them know what the Post was working on, including the fact that the newspaper’s scope included Solyndra and other companies.[363] “It seems like it is partially inferring that we are rewarding places that have investors that are large donors or that lobby us to visit,” Nelson wrote.[363] “At no time do we look at donor history, and in fact many of the CEOs and companies we visit volunteer that they are Republican (one of the sites in WI POTUS visited has a self-described ‘tea party-sympathizing CEO.’)”[363] Carson responded: “Thanks for the heads up Greg … And we all know how straightforward this process is and that we actually go out of our way to ignore the politics of these trips, so don’t let this drag you down, you are doing great work.”[363]

December 4, 2011: Carson Writes "Will Extending the Payroll Tax Cut Affect Social Security? No." on White House Blog

On December 4, 2011 Carson wrote "ill Extending the Payroll Tax Cut Affect Social Security? No." on the White House Blog:

Lately, many Americans have asked me if the payroll tax cut will affect Social Security. The answer is simply no.

The payroll tax cut has given tax breaks to millions of families across the country this year, providing a boost to their pocketbooks. Extending it would ensure that taxes do not go up for nearly 160 million hardworking Americans on January 1st -- an increase of $1,000 for the typical household.

While more money stays in workers’ paychecks, the law specifies that Social Security receive every dollar it would have gotten even without the payroll tax cut. This happens by automatically transferring resources from the government’s general coffers to the Social Security Trust Fund. And indeed, the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration has confirmed that the payroll tax cut would have no impact on the Trust Fund.

The President believes that Social Security is a sacred compact, that in return for a lifetime of hard work, America’s seniors will have a chance to retire with dignity. We have an obligation to keep that promise and safeguard and strengthen Social Security for seniors, people with disabilities and all Americans, both now and in the future.

The President also believes in the need to spur economic growth. The payroll tax cut will generate growth and put people back to work.

February 10, 2012: Carson Meets with Arc about Disabilities

On February 10, 2012 Carson and the Office of Public Engagement hosted a meeting with 150 members of The Arc, one of the largest national community-based organizations advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.[364] “The Arc, as one of the largest organizations working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, brings a wealth of experience and insight to discuss today’s most important concerns facing persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, said Carson.[364] “We’re looking forward to having them here at the White House to deepen our partnership, and to discuss the issues we care about most.”[364]

February 24, 2012: Carson Meets with American Heart Association and WomenHeart

On February 24, 2012 Carson hosted the American Heart Association and WomenHeart as part of the White House Community Leaders Briefing Series inviting one hundred and fifty American Heart Association and WomenHeart volunteers, members, advocates, and staff from across the country to attend a briefing for individuals and organizations who work to raise awareness among women about their risk of cardiovascular disease.[365] “The American Heart Association and WomenHeart are key partners in our efforts to win the fight against heart disease and educate people about this critical public health challenge,” said Carson.[365] “We’re looking forward to having them here at the White House to discuss ways to take action against a disease that takes the lives of over half a million Americans every year.”[365]

At the meeting, Emery Miller, a Chandler 13-year-old who has undergone four open-heart surgeries for congenital heart defects, and has helped raise nearly $200,000 for the American Heart Association in Phoenix, said he asked Carson a question that was “so scientific that I stumped him.”[366] Miller hopes this trip to the White House is not his last.[366] “It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but I’m hoping it’s not a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Miller. “I hope to come back.”[366]

March 5, 2012: Carson Meets with Know Your Farmer Compass Event

On March 5, 2012 Carson participated with Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan in a Know Your Farmer Compass event that utilized twitter social media to continue the National Conversation on Local and Regional Food projects and how they offer economic opportunities to local farmers, ranchers and food entrepreneurs.[367] The virtual conversation took place at the White House, and twitter was used to expand the conversation worldwide.[367] "Unlike most events where mobile communication devices are asked to be turned off, here it was asked that they remain on allowing people to have social media conversations," reported Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan.[367]

March 7, 2012: Carson Speaks in Favor of Bolstering Obama Health Care Law

Robert Pear reported in the NY Times that Carson spoke at a meeting at the White House on March 7, 2012 in favor of bolstering President Obama's landmark health care law, which is being challenged by 26 states as unconstitutional.[368] The meeting was part of "an aggressive campaign to use approaching Supreme Court arguments on the new health care law as a moment to build support for the measure seen as President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, hoping to shape public opinion on an issue at the center of the battle for the White House and Congress."[368] The meeting was held with dozens of leaders of nonprofit organizations that strongly back the health law to help them coordinate plans for a prayer vigil, press conferences and other events outside the court when justices hear arguments for three days beginning March 26.[368] Other speakers at the meeting included Jennifer Palmieri, deputy communications director at the White House; Jeanne M. Lambrew, deputy assistant to the president for health policy; and Mark B. Childress, a deputy chief of staff at the White House.[368]

March 14, 2012: Carson Speaks at White House Tweetup for Arrival of UK Prime Minister David Cameron

On March 14, 2012 after the White House Arrival Ceremony concluded for the arrival of UK Prime Minister David Cameron to the White House, Carson was part of a group that spoke at a briefing explaining how media is evolving to embrace social platforms.[369] Over 140 people participated in the Tweetup, representing 23 states, from as far away as California and Texas.[369] The group asked their questions and also relayed questions submitted by their Twitter followers, enabling thousands of people across the country to virtually participate in the conversation.[369] Dan Pfeiffer, Director of Communications for the White House, Caitlin Hayden, Deputy National Security Council Spokesperson, and James Barbour, Press Secretary for the British Embassy. Brian Deese, and Macon Phillips, also spoke with the group.[369]

March 23, 2012: Carson Tweets with National Women's Law Center

Danielle Jackson writes on the blog of the National Women's Law Center on March 23, 2012 that members of her group participated in a tweetchat on March 23, 2012 with Carson and some members of MomsRising to celebrate the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act and to participate in a Twitter conversation about how the health care law is helping women and their families.[370] "Jon even answered some questions in Spanish," writes Jackson, "so we could reach out to the Spanish-speaking communities to let them know how the health care law will help them!" An archive of the Tweetchat is available.[370]

March 23, 2012: Carson Featured in We the People Video

Sarah Lai Stirland wrote in Personal Democracy Plus on March 23, 2012 about an an online video released by the White House that shows the public how it incorporates feedback from its online petitioning tool "We The People," into staffers' policy formulating process. The video features Carson and White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Nancy Ann DeParle speaking about the process. One of the examples the video showcases is the White House's response to the public outrage online over the Stop Online Piracy Act. The video showed a shot of the "Veto the SOPA bill," petition at the White House, and the subsequent news stories that reported on the Obama Administration's surprise move to oppose the legislation.[371] "There are issues that are on live petitions right now that are on We the People that senior members of the White House are having meetings about because the issue came to use through We the People," says Caqson in the video. "Being able to say: 'Look, 60,000 people signed a petition on We the People in just a matter of weeks,' it's impactful."[372]

March 26, 2012: Carson Meets with Universities Presidents to Discuss Making College More Affordable

"Inside Higher Ed" reported on March 26, 2012 that about 25 presidents from state colleges and universities met with Carson, domestic policy director Cecilia Muñoz, and Deputy Education Secretary Tony Miller on March 23, 2012 for a discussion of President Obama's plans to try to make college more affordable.[373]

April 3, 2012: Carson Meets with National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention

On April 3, 2012 the White House announced that it would honor Deputy Police Chief Kelly McMillin of Salinas, California as one of 12 leaders recognized by the "Champions of Change" program for his work to prevent youth violence within their communities as part of the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention. “I’m proud leaders like these have found new and innovative ways to prevent youth violence,” said Carson. “If we’re going to combat violence and keep our kids safe, then we need to ensure we dedicate time and manpower to the issue. These leaders have done just that, and this is what makes them true champions for their communities and our country.”[374] The White House also honored Elena Chang and Suma Reddy Thursday as two of nine Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) leaders and organizations that are Champions of Change. “These nine champions have demonstrated what it means to be a force of inspiration and change in their communities. It is because of their work that the AAPI community is as strong as it is today. And it is their leadership that will enable us better address the various needs of the underserved,” said Carson. “We are delighted to have them here at the White House to honor them for the work that they do.”[375] Also honored was Nurse-turned-activist Corazon Basa Cortes Tomalinas of San Jose, California, a Filipino-American from Agoo, La Union province, who started a crusade to help the youth when her own daughter got involved in drugs. Carson said he was proud that Tomalinas and the other “Champion of Change” honorees found innovative ways to prevent youth violence.

“If we’re going to combat violence and keep our kids safe, then we need to ensure we dedicate time and manpower to the issue,” said Carson. “These leaders have done just that, and this is what makes them true champions for their communities and our country.”[376]

April 11, 2012: Carson Writes about Investing in America’s Health Care Workforce

On April 11, 2012 Carson wrote a blog post on the White House Blog about the Affordable Care Ac highlighting that in many communities across America, residents do not have easy access to a primary health care provider. "Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more Americans will have access to health care from a compassionate doctor or nurse like Christin – receiving part of $9.1 million in National Health Service Corps funding being distributed to medical students at schools in 30 states and the District of Columbia – who will serve as primary care doctors and help strengthen the health care workforce. This Students to Service program is just one of many NHSC initiatives receiving funding under the new law. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act and the Recovery Act, communities nationwide are benefiting from the nearly $900 million in scholarships and loan repayments that has almost tripled the number of participants in the National Health Service Corps to include more than 10,000 National Corps members – doctors, nurses and other health care providers," writes Carson. "Altogether, these investments mean both that more patients will be able to get the care they need in their community – and that more Americans who want to embark on a career in health care will have access to training and jobs."[377]

April 25, 2012: Carson Said to Have Met with accused Ponzi schemer who is facing an SEC investigation

Byron Tau wrote in Politico on April 25, 2012 that the Obama campaign will return the donations of Shervin Neman, a hedge fund manager in Los Angeles, who stands accused by the SEC of defrauding members of his California Persian-Jewish community. According to public records, Neman gave the maximum $35,800 donation to the Obama campaign and another $30,800 to the Democratic National Committee. The Free Beacon reported that Neman dined at the White House in early November, 2011 according to White House visitor logs and was hosted by the White House director of the Office of Public Engagement Jon Carson.[378][379]

April 25, 2012 Carson Blogs about Taxes and the Budget

On April 25, 2012 Carson wrote a post on the blog of the OPE answering questions about the President’s plans about the economy. "The Ryan-Republican budget,passed by the House of Representatives last month, fails the test of balance, fairness, and shared responsibility," wrote Carson. "Rather than ensuring that millionaires pay their fair share in taxes, it would provide an average tax cut of $150,000 for those earning more than $1 million per year."

We know that the strength of our economy depends in large part on our willingness to make the sorts of key investments – in education, infrastructure, clean energy, scientific research, and the like – that provide security for middle class families and a strong foundation for economic growth. We’ve tried the trickle-down economics that would convert these investments into more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans on the hope that prosperity would trickle down to the middle class – and it has failed on a massive scale. Our history shows that prosperity in America has always spread from the bottom up, from the middle class out. A strong middle class benefits everybody, and gutting key investments in America's infrastructure, innovation and education hinders our entire economy. That basic truth is particularly relevant today, as we’ve seen the share of national income earned by the very wealthiest Americans in recent years climb to the highest it's been since the 1920s. The top one percent of households—the wealthiest one out of every 100—now takes home 17 percent of the national income. The top .1 percent—the wealthiest one out of every 1,000 households—makes more than 7 percent of the national income. Meanwhile, the average tax rate, for that .1 percent has dropped a stunning 50 percent over the last 50 years, from 51 percent to 26 percentincluding federal income and payroll taxes. This is nearly the lowest rate in over 50 years and is, in fact, one-half the rate they would have paid in 1960. Tax rates for middle-class families, who are earning a smaller percentage of the national income, have actually increased slightly during the same period. The President believes that the most well-off Americans should contribute to deficit reduction by paying more, but under the President’s plan, all measures to raise additional revenue — including fundamental tax reform — are not effective until 2013.[380]

Carson defended the President's proposal to implement the Buffet rule:

The Buffett Rule only applies to those making over $1 million—or about 3 out of every 1,000 Americans, according to IRS data, and those within that group that pay at low rates. Most of the very few true small business owners making over $1 million already pay ordinary income tax rates (and not the preferential rates) and thus would not be impacted at all by the Buffett Rule. In addition, the President’s American Jobs Act focuses on tax cuts for small businesses that support hiring and investing — by cutting their payroll taxes in half, providing a full payroll tax holiday for increased hiring and wages, and extending 100 percent expensing on new investments. And that comes on top of 17 small business tax cuts the President has already signed into law, like the elimination of capital gains taxes on key small business investments.[381]

April 27, 2012: Carson Writes about One Year Anniversary of Champions of Change Program

On April 27, 2012 Carson wrote on the OPE Blog that the White House had celebrated the one-year anniversary of the "Champions of Change" program with President Obama meeting with a handful of Champions of Change:[382]

These are people who are working to end youth and domestic violence, to green our cities, and to renew and strengthen communities through service and innovation. They are working to promote immigrant integration, to provide housing counseling, and to establish broadband access in rural areas of the country. As President Obama said, “By making their communities better places to live, our Champions are helping to ensure that our country’s best days lie ahead.” To celebrate the program’s one-year anniversary, yesterday President Obama met with a handful of Champions of Change. He learned about the work they are doing in their communities and asked what being a Champion of Change means to them. Each one of them had a unique answer. Andrew Yang, who founded a non-profit fellowship program that sends top college graduates to start-up companies, met people through the Champions program that helped him grow his organization. Ted Lasser, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, said being recognized as a Champion showed him that he had chosen the right path in life. And Myrdin Thompson, a “Parents on Education” Champion, told the President how proud her kids were to learn that he thought their mother was “awesome.” As the President has often said, change doesn’t happen from the top down and it doesn’t always come from Washington. It happens from the bottom up, and it is driven by people like the 12 remarkable individuals who came to the White House yesterday.[383]

May 4th, 2012: Carson Meets with National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA)

On May 4th, 2012 the White House held a national briefing for the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA) as part of the United Nation's International Year of Cooperatives (IYC. Carson hosted a listening session and laid out his co-op lineage. Born on a farm in Wisconsin on which his family has resided for over 100 years, Carson talked proudly of the co-ops his family were members of: a supply co-op, rural electric co-op, credit union to name a few, and how his dairy co-op was now a member of Organic Valley. According to David J. Thompson reporting for Co-operative News, "Carson listened intently to comments and questions from the assembled co-op leaders. He and his staff feverishly took notes as cooperators throughout the room used the opportunity to give the Obama Administration ideas and feedback. Many of the co-op leaders were grateful for the responses they got from Carson and his staff. In a number of cases Carson was quick to point out that certain good ideas could be done immediately by the Obama Administration and did not have to wait for Congressional action."[384]

June 4, 2012: Carson Delivers Keynote Address at the Uncommon Alliances Forum

Imperial Valley News reports that on June 4, 2012 Carson will will deliver keynote remarks during the opening session of the Uncommon Alliances Forum, a one-day interactive workshop about public-private partnerships co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the Institute for Corporate Responsibility at the George Washington University School of Business. The Forum will provide practitioners from the public and private sectors and civil society an opportunity to talk about the ins and outs of building alliances and techniques for overcoming hurdles, and focus on emerging trends in the partnership community.[385]

August 7, 2012: Carson Writes about Finding Inspiration in the Champions of Change

On August 7, 2012 Carson wrote on the OPE Blog that since the Champions of Change program started, the White House has hosted a series of memorable events honoring over 500 Champions from all 50 states.[386]

Last week, we also brought together our Champions of Change alumni on a call to reflect on how far the program has come, all the work that is being done throughout the country, and all the work that is still left to do. From what we heard from past Champions, they continue to do phenomenal work in their communities and have fostered partnerships and connections with their fellow Champions of Change. The Champions of Change program continues to bring to the forefront some of the most incredible stories of change happening from the bottom up. These are real stories about real people who are leading initiatives across the country. It is so inspiring to see how their work at the community level is the driving force that brought, and continues to bring about change at the national level – in Washington.[387]

October 24, 2012: Carson Reportedly Says Ed DeMarco at the Federal Housing Finance Agency Will Soon Be Fired

Shahien Nasiripour wrote in the Financial Times on October 24, 2012 that Carson told Democratic groups that they hope to oust Edward DeMarco, acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency in August 2009 by Barack Obama, US president. DeMarco will most likely be fired in the coming months, most likely by replacing him via an appointment while Congress is not in session, according to people familiar with the matter. "In 2010, Senate Republicans opposed Mr Obama’s choice to replace Mr DeMarco and have since said they would be unwilling to support other candidates who support principal reduction schemes," writes Nasiripour. "Administration officials have argued there are few qualified candidates willing to take the demanding position. Some borrower advocates have argued that the White House has kept Mr DeMarco in office in part because it provides the administration with an easy excuse when questioned about why they have not done more to prevent millions of home seizures."[388]

November 26, 2012: Carson Speaks at Annual Winter Conference of the Democracy Alliance

The Syracuse Post-Standard reported on November 26, 2012 that Carson spoke at a three-day conference -- the annual winter conference of the Democracy Alliance, an exclusive club composed of some of the biggest liberal donors -- at Washington's W Hotel. "Democracy Alliance donors gave or pledged more than $14 million to super PACs and secret-money nonprofits this year after a vigorous debate about whether Democrats should participate in the wave of unlimited political spending that Republicans rode to control of the House of Representatives in 2010. Some of the left's biggest traditional donors argued that joining the big money fight would be akin to condoning the recent court decisions that sparked it -- most notably the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, which Democrats up to and including Obama decried as facilitating a corporate takeover of democracy. They either abstained entirely or were slow to open their checkbooks."[389]

December 5, 2012: Carson Meets with Delegates from North Carolina to Discuss the Impending Fiscal Cliff

Mary Katherine Murphy wrote in the Laurinburg Exchange on December 5, 2012 that Carson met with 45 civic leaders from North Carolina asked to the White House to discuss the impending fiscal cliff — the tax hikes and spending cuts likely to be enacted next year if Congress and the president fail to agree on an alternate course of action. “One of the things we talked about particularly was the fact that there was some concern that the president himself might decide to cave,” said Laurinburg businessman Walter Rogers, Chairman of the North Carolina 8th District Black Leadership Caucus. “He has been very conciliatory when it comes to working with Congress over the last two years, and he really has not benefited from it. There were a lot of people who said ‘Mr. President, this time we want you to do differently. Do not cave to this crowd, because you cannot cave enough to satisfy them.’”[390]

December 6, 2012: Carson Meets with Kentucky and Tennessee Groups to Raise Awareness and Action Around the Fiscal Cliff and Tax Cuts

James R. Carroll wrote in the Courier-Journal on December 6, 2012 that the White House hosted representatives of Kentucky social justice groups at a meeting Wednesday in an effort to build support for its plan to avoid the impending “fiscal cliff.” Jon Carson, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, hosted the session with the Kentucky and Tennessee groups. According to the agenda handed out to participants in the meeting, its purpose was “to build statewide coalitions to raise awareness and action around the fiscal cliff and tax cuts.”[391]

December 7, 2012: Carson Holds Meeting with Community Leaders including members of Small Business Owners for Obama

The Madison State Journal reported on December 14, 2012 that Carson held a meeting on December 7, 2012 with 100 community leaders including members of a group called Small Business Owners for Obama who tried to get the word out about how Obama was helping small businesses during the election. Carson discussed the administration’s past and future policy initiatives and Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett and First Lady Michelle Obama addressed the group. Brewer Stouffer, owner of Roman Candle in Madison Wisconsin, said he tried to communicate his interest in universal health care, noting that he has offered health insurance to his full-time employees for the last six years adding that there’s an opportunity to lower workers comp insurance as more people have health insurance. Clinics are an efficient alternative to emergency rooms. “Take for example, a cook who cuts his finger, right now it’s $1,500 just for stitches in the emergency room,” Stouffer said. “If that person had insurance they could much more efficiently be dealt with.”[392]

December 8, 2012: Carson Talk To Organizers From 18 States To Help President Obama Fulfill His Second Term Agenda Starting With The Fiscal Cliff

Joe Deshotel wrote on December 8, 2012 in Burnt Orange Report that the White House Office of Public Engagement (OPE) has tapped organizers from 18 states to help President Obama fulfill his second term agenda starting with the fiscal cliff. Carson told the group how important Texas was to this administration particularly with respect to our high number of uninsured as it relates to our coming health care exchange. "It took four months for the administration to organize around a message after his first inauguration," writes Deshotel. "his time around the Administration knew on day one what its priority would be. The President would use his political capital to pass a more fair tax plan that involved raising taxes on the most wealthy among us - a laudable and responsible goal considering the increasing wealth disparity in the US is beginning to look more in line with 3rd world nations."[393]

"There isn't much time and the White House assured us that the President is prepared to tackle an aggressive second term agenda but that they need this important victory behind them when he lays out his vision on inauguration day January 21st. If you need further proof that this President plans to work closely with Texas in his 2nd term, just ask the administration what they hope could be his greatest 2nd term accomplishment - comprehensive immigration reform."[394]

December 14, 2012: Carson at White House Vigil For Gun Control Action

Jennifer Bendery and Sam Stein reported in the Huffington Post on December 14, 2012 that in the aftermath of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, dozens turned up outside the White House gates begging him to take action on gun control. "Walking among the crowd, outside the gates, was Jon Carson, Obama's director of the Office of Public Engagement. He told The Huffington Post that he had a 4-year-old and had stepped out to take in the scene of the Sandy Hook vigil. Several progressive advocates, including those pushing for the president to tackle gun control legislation, were pleased with his presence there."[395]

January 11, 2013: Carson Says No to Secession Petitions

Politico reported on January 11, 2013 that Carson responded to the thousands of people who used Obama’s “We the People” online petitioning platform to call for secession, saying the Constitution gives people the right to change government through voting — but not seceding. “Our founding fathers established the Constitution of the United States ‘in order to form a more perfect union’ through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government,” Carson wrote in an online release. He continued: “They enshrined in that document the right to change our national government through the power of the ballot — a right that generations of Americans have fought to secure for all. But they did not provide a right to walk away from it.”[396]

Our founding fathers established the Constitution of the United States "in order to form a more perfect union" through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. They enshrined in that document the right to change our national government through the power of the ballot -- a right that generations of Americans have fought to secure for all. But they did not provide a right to walk away from it. As President Abraham Lincoln explained in his first inaugural address in 1861, "in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution the Union of these States is perpetual." In the years that followed, more than 600,000 Americans died in a long and bloody civil war that vindicated the principle that the Constitution establishes a permanent union between the States. And shortly after the Civil War ended, the Supreme Court confirmed that "[t]he Constitution, in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union composed of indestructible States."Although the founders established a perpetual union, they also provided for a government that is, as President Lincoln would later describe it, "of the people, by the people, and for the people" -- all of the people. Participation in, and engagement with, government is the cornerstone of our democracy. And because every American who wants to participate deserves a government that is accessible and responsive, the Obama Administration has created a host of new tools and channels to connect concerned citizens with White House. In fact, one of the most exciting aspects of the We the People platform is a chance to engage directly with our most outspoken critics.So let's be clear: No one disputes that our country faces big challenges, and the recent election followed a vigorous debate about how they should be addressed. As President Obama said the night he won re-election, "We may have battled fiercely, but it's only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future."[397]

Executive Director of Organizing for Action (OFA) in 2013

Carson Appointment

Ken Thomas reported in the Associated Press on January 13, 2013 that Jon Carson is leaving the administration to become executive director of Organizing for Action. Obama campaign manager Jim Messina will serve as the group's national chairman. The group's board of directors will include former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, top campaign officials Stephanie Cutter, Jennifer O'Malley-Dillon and Julianna Smoot, Obama campaign adviser and Democratic strategist Erik Smith and Frank White, a businessman and prominent Obama donor. White House aide David Plouffe, the 2008 campaign manager, is expected to join the board after he leaves the administration later this month.[398]

Rick Cohen wrote in the non-profit quarterly on January 23, 2013 that "commentators have been generally positive about the selection of White House operative Jon Carson as the new OFA’s executive director. As director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, Carson is well respected by activists."[399] According to Molly Ball writing in the Atlantic on January 29, 2013, insiders say that from his roles as the field director of Obama's 2008 campaign and director of the White House's Office of Public Engagement in the president's first term, Carson has an understanding of how Washington works and a deep facility with campaign mechanics.[400]

Mike Allen reported in Politico on March 15, 2013 that Paulette Aniskoff, FEMA’s Director of Individual and Community Preparedness, was appointed Director of the Office of Public Engagement replacing Carson. Aniskoff has a decade of experience working on community engagement and development through her efforts for President Obama’s campaign as well as senators, House members, philanthropists, and issue advocacy.[401]

Mission of Organizing for Action

Ken Thomas reported in the Associated Press on January 13, 2013 that President Obama's political organization is being turned into a tax-exempt nonprofit group called called Organizing for Action — funded in part by corporate money — to mobilize support behind the president's second-term agenda.[402] The aim of the group, which will be overseen by a small inner circle of former campaign advisers, will be to promote Obama’s policies and to give Democratic activists and other allies a way to rally behind his agenda.[403] Officials said the group will be separate from the Democratic National Committee and advocate on key policy issues such as gun control and immigration, train future leaders and devote attention to local issues around the country. "Following in the footsteps of the campaign you built, Organizing for Action will be an unparalleled force in American politics," Obama said in an email to supporters Friday. "It will work to turn our shared values into legislative action, and it'll empower the next generation of leaders in our movement."[404]

The move represents the first time a sitting president has ever transformed his presidential campaign operation into an outside group with the express purpose of promoting his agenda. "Obama's political apparatus, which paired traditional grassroots techniques with cutting-edge technology, was groundbreaking when it was created for the 2008 campaign," writes Thomas. "It signed up legions of backers, collected information about them and linked them to each other through the Internet. It also used sophisticated new tools — and mounds of data it had culled — to identify sporadic or new voters, and ensure they turned out on Election Day."[405]

According to the "Organizing for Action" web site "Organizing for Action is a nonprofit organization established to support President Obama in achieving enactment of the national agenda Americans voted for on Election Day 2012. OFA will advocate for these policies throughout the country and will mobilize citizens of all parties and diverse points to speak out for speedy passage and effective implementation of this program, including gun control, sensible environmental policies to address climate change and immigration reform. In addition, OFA will encourage the formation of chapters that will be dedicated at the grassroots level to this program, but also committed to identifying and working progressive change on a range of issues at the state and local level. In carrying its work, OFA will operate as a "social welfare" organization within the meaning of section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code."[406]

"Over the next four years, we’ve got an incredible opportunity to keep moving this country forward," wrote Carson. "This grassroots movement has shown time and again that ordinary people have the power to change our country if we work together to do it. So locally and nationally, OFA will fight for our shared values on issues."[407]

Valerie Jarrett says that in the beginning of Obama's first term, "he was so concerned with getting the policy right, we did not spend enough time engaging the American people in the process.” OFA will support the president’s agenda by generating outside-in pressure — with some big assists. The drive, said Jarrett, “will involve the president, it will involve the first lady with a goal to “engage the American people directly in making sure the president’s agenda which they support” gets done. "The hope would be in the second term there is some momentum generated by the American people [so that] the Republicans in Congress would be more willing to engage with us.”[408]

Samuel P. Jacbos wrote in the Chicago Tribune on March 12, 2013 that one former Obama organizer picked an unlikely precedent for OFA: the National Rifle Association, arguing that Carson could stand up a group for the left that has the power to cajole lawmakers into toeing the progressive line.[409]

Organization of OFA

Janie Lorber wrote in Roll Call on January 20, 2013 that the proposed structure of OFA will be a network of local chapters — closely resembles that of the powerful conservative group Americans for Prosperity. Carson said that the each chapter would be responsible for raising money for its operations and local battles, while the national office would manage funding for issue campaigns. “We are going to challenge you to lead it. We are going to challenge you to organize it, and we are going to challenge you to pay for it,” Carson said. “We are going to give you ownership at the local level.”[410]

Marta Gold reported in the LA Times on January 20, 2013 that Carson cast the new OFA as a locally driven effort, and encouraged volunteers to organize chapters in their communities. He said chapters would have to raise their own money to get access to the campaign’s database -- an announcement that drew some shouts of disapproval from the audience but he promised the organization would provide training for local OFA chapters and set up conference calls with administration officials and experts who could provide briefings on congressional rules and other topics.[411]

OFA and Obama's Long Term Strategy

Tom Watson wrote in Forbes on January 18, 2013 that the announcement that the President’s powerful organizing and networking platform, Organizing for America, has split off from the Obama political apparatus (and thus, the Democratic Party), and filed for nonprofit status may mean that Obama has "jumped beyond all of his predecessors in setting the stage early for a post-Presidency that comes with both power and impact." Watson writes that this may mark the start of Obama’s own version of the Clinton Global Initiative and fits the President’s commitment to citizen organizing and broad policy strokes. "It’s 2017. Hillary Clinton (or someone else) has just been sworn in as the nation’s 45th President. The accomplishments of the Obama Administration are now in the realm of legacy. But Barack Obama is only 56 years old, about the same age as a restless Bill Clinton was when he left the White House," writes Watson. "Obama got a very strong taste of a muscular post-Presidency as he grew closer to his Democratic forebear in last year’s campaign. But his path has to come with an authentic stamp – and with the team of leaders who helped him change the country." So watch Organizing for Action carefully says Watson. "Because you’re not just watching a new model for external White House policy advocacy – you’re seeing evidence of the longer Obama strategy in its early stages."[412]

OFA's Latest Incarnation is to Target Local Media and Train The Next Generation Of Progressive Organizers

Micah L. Sifry wrote at TechPresident on December 16, 2013 that OFA has decided to position itself in the progressive firmament, as one-part local media operation and one-part local training network. "Our main goal," says Sara El-Amine, OFA's organizing director, "is to change the conversation on issues." To that end, it has focused much of the year on "days of action" on particular issues like health care and the environment, all aimed at generating local news to influence specific Congress members and their constituents. OFA's strategy is designed to make the most of a much smaller hand. In Florida, Carson noted, "we have five staff; during the campaign we had 800." As a result, OFA, he said, can't do "mass action" like voter mobilization or registration, but it can do local actions and other press events aimed at getting on the local news. "At the chapter level we really focus on press," El-Amine said. "We hit members of Congress where they are listening. A phone call is like cutting down a tree in an empty forest. A local press clip is like cutting down a tree and everyone is watching." [413]

Carson says that OFA still had a big role to play in training the next generation of progressive organizers, and in keeping the extensive network of people who have been through an OFA or Obama campaign training involved. "We are still bringing new people into this movement," he declared, noting that they had received 10,000 applications for their spring organizing fellows program. To engage more of them, OFA is hiring 63 extra staff for three months, which will allow to train more than a thousand new fellows, just in time for them to go on the political campaign market in late spring 2014. Carson thinks this model of targeted local media work and ongoing organizer training is a smart way to build on OFA's most tangible assets, and I suspect he is right. "The president's brand will bring people into advocacy for a long time," he declared. "And the [OFA] alumni network will be there for a long time too."[414]

"The latest incarnation of OFA may be the smartest one," concludes Sifry. "It's not promising to pass the President's agenda or change the way Washington works; it's just trying to give its members something useful to do back home and pass on its organizing skills to the next generation. Someone else will have to figure out how to convert that into something bigger."[415]

Criticism of Organizing for Action

Avoiding the Fate of "Organizing for America"

Matea Gold reported in the LA Times on January 18, 2013 that "Organizing for Action" hopes to avoid the previous fate of similarly named "Organizing for America" formed in 2009 to transform Obama's first presidential campaign into a permanent advocacy force. Organizing for America was criticized by many Democrats for failing to effectively harness the president's grass-roots supporters. The new group, unlike its predecessor, will be independent of the Democratic National Committee.[416]

Janie Lorber reported in Roll Call on January 20, 2013 that campaign staffers and volunteers who gathered in Washington, D.C. on January 20, 2013 to chart the OFA’s future said Democrats could have avoided critical losses in the 2010 midterm elections had they activated the Obama campaign machine. They pledged not to make that mistake again.[417]

Marta Gold reported in the LA Times on January 20, 2013 that a similar project set up after the 2008 campaign was criticized by many Obama supporters for failing to effectively keep grass-roots supporters engaged. “After 2008, there was a little bit of a lull there,” said Sonia Prince, who served as a neighborhood team leader in Nashua, N.H. “That first year was kind of dead. I think they could have done a better job to keep everyone together. Because everyone was so fired up, and then it just ended. This time, if we keep them informed and we keep them talking about the topics at hand -- there’s more than just electing a president. You need a lot of people to push against the big lobby money.”[418]

Randy Shaw wrote in the San Diego Free Press on January 23, 2013 that "the decision to use the Obama campaign base to mobilize around issues reverses the mistake made after the 2008 victory, when the huge Obama for America grassroots base was cut adrift from mobilizing behind the President’s first term agenda." In a decision Obama now admits was a mistake, the operation was cut off after the election says Shaw. "Obama increasingly sounds like someone who feels he missed opportunities in his first term and does not want to repeat past mistakes. We will know by the spring if his efforts on gun control and immigration reform have moved beyond past attempts, and this will also tell us whether Organizing for Action has made a difference."[419]

Molly Ball wrote in the Atlantic on January 29, 2013 that according to former DNC Head Howard Dean OFA 2.0 "fell apart" when Obama backed off of the public option for health-care reform, dispiriting his progressive base and making them reluctant to rally to his side. If the president doesn't hold fast to the "inspiring" promises he made in his second inaugural, Dean said, his supporters will fall away once again. "Lots of presidents have tried to rally the public on an ad hoc basis," Dean said, pointing to Ronald Reagan exhorting Americans to call their members of Congress in support of his tax proposals -- a ploy that worked. "But I don't believe any president has ever maintained a standing grassroots army .... Obama built the best grassroots campaign I've ever seen by a mile. Nobody has done this successfully before, but if anyone can do it, he can."[420]

Corporate Influence

Campaign finance experts say the creation of OFA as a nonprofit group as 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 , raises issues of 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."[421]

Rick Cohen wrote in the non-profit quarterly on January 23, 2013 that his question is that although the new OFA leadership pledges that the organization will not accept donations from lobbyists, but who needs lobbyists to front for corporate special interests when corporations can make unlimited donations on their own? "As a 501(c)(4), even if the leadership makes commitments to disclosure, OFA can still be a politically allied social welfare organization camouflaging the unlimited corporate donations unleashed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision," writes Cohen. " Already, people otherwise supportive of the Obama administration, such as former Democratic Party leader and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean have called on OFA to refuse corporate donations."[422]

Kennerth P. Vogel, Tarini Parti, and Byron Tau reported in Politico on January 25, 2013 that Fred Wertheimer, head of the money-in-politics watchdog group Democracy 21, expressed concern about the role of corporate funding for OFA. “This is the worst possible way for President Obama to start his second term in office,” Wertheimer said. He urged Obama to “immediately” shut down Organizing for Action, calling its creation “an inexplicable action by the president that directly contradicts the message President Obama has been taking to the country for years about the dangerous role played by corporate and special interest money in influencing the way business is done in Washington.”[423]

John Diaz wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle on January 27, 2013 that "even those of us who agree with the priorities Obama laid out in his second Inaugural Address should be concerned about the financing behind what will become, in effect, an arm of the White House" because the structuring of Organizing for America under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code will exempt it from any limits on the size of donations. "The organization's other self-imposed restraint - it pledges not to accept money from lobbyists or political action committees - is almost laughable in its disingenuousness. The reason that special-interest contributions to candidates get funneled through PACs and lobbyists is that federal law prohibits direct donations from corporations and labor unions," writes Diaz. "Organizing for America doesn't need PACs or lobbyists as middlemen. It set itself up in a tax-exempt structure that allows direct contributions from anyone. Companies such as Exxon Mobil - which gave $250,000 to Obama's inaugural after he abandoned a 2009 policy of no corporate donations - can spend as much as they want at any time they want, even when major policies that affect them are pending in Washington."[424]

Fredreka Schouten reported in USA Today on January 23, 2013 that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed the new group in a Senate speech. "Instead of offering an olive branch to those who disagree with him," McConnell said, "the president … decided to transform his campaign operation into a weapon to bulldoze anyone who doesn't share his vision."[425]

Selling Access to the President

Nicholas Confessore reported in the NY Times on February 22, 2013 that in private meetings and phone calls, Obama’s aides in OFA have made clear that the new organization will rely heavily on a small number of deep-pocketed donors with at least half of the group’s budget will come from a select group of donors who will each contribute or raise $500,000 or more, according to donors and strategists involved in the effort. Organizing for Action will hold a “founders summit” in March, 2013 where donors paying $50,000 each will mingle with Mr. Obama’s former campaign manager, Jim Messina, and Carson. Giving or raising $500,000 or more puts donors on a national advisory board for Mr. Obama’s group and the privilege of attending quarterly meetings with the president, along with other meetings at the White House. “It just smells,” said Bob Edgar, the president of Common Cause, which advocates tighter regulation of campaign money. “The president is setting a very bad model setting up this organization.”[426]

Dave Boyer reported in the Washington Times on February 25, 2013 that the White House refuted a report on February 22, 2013 that President Obama’s former campaign team is selling access to him for wealthy donors who contribute at least $500,000 to OFA. White House press secretary Jay Carney offered a flat “no” when asked by reporters if donors to the group Organizing for Action — a spinoff of Obama for America — would be rewarded with quarterly meetings with Obama in exchange for their hefty contributions to the tax-exempt group. “Of course not,” Mr. Carney said “The president is engaged in an effort to pass items on his agenda. And outside organizations that support that agenda … like organizations that support his manufacturing agenda, administration officials can meet with them. This is an independent organization.”[427]

Dominance by Political Insiders

Janie Lorber reported in Roll Call on January 20, 2013 that Carson said at the organizational meeting for OFA on January 18, 2013 that the organization will work in lockstep with the White House, a reality that some liberals say will weaken the movement. “If OFA is an independent political force that represents Obama volunteers, that is a very exciting thing,” said Becky Bond, the political director at Credo Mobile, a progressive phone company. “If it is a set of tools and a pot of money that just ends up manufacturing grass-roots support for the presidents’ weak compromises with Republicans, that’s a bad thing.”[428]

Rick Cohen wrote in the non-profit quarterly on January 23, 2013 that "given OFA’s leadership by former Obama campaign staffers, how likely is it that OFA will be able to take the organization through small “d” democratic governance processes in any direction other than one supported by Messina, Plouffe, and other campaign operatives promoting the president’s agenda?"[429]

Kennerth P. Vogel, Tarini Parti, and Byron Tau reported in Politico on January 25, 2013 that OFA "seems poised to become the center of a constellation of mostly secret-money nonprofit groups" and that Jim Messina told liberal mega-donors at the "Road Ahead" conference on January 19, 2013 that the Common Purpose Project, a non-profit which convenes weekly meetings of such groups regularly featuring White House officials, would be “the model that we’re basing this off.”[430]

Run Like a Political Operation

Alana Goodman reported in Free Beacon on February 12, 2013 that Scott Coffina, associate counsel under Bush from 2007 to 2009, is raising concerns over the close relationship between OFA and the White House. “The big concern [with OFA] is what a fine line they’re drawing because this is the entire political apparatus that’s running this,” Coffina said. “The way this organization has been run is like a political operation, and now it has to turn on a dime and completely turn its back on that. It’s gotta be policed, and who’s going to police it? Is the White House going to police it? Is it going to police itself?” If administration officials participate in OFA events that involve fundraising, it could give the appearance of quid pro quo, said Richard Painter, associate counsel and chief ethics lawyer for President Bush from 2005 to 2007. “Some of this fundraising could start to border something that looks very much like soliciting a bribe, when a government official is going out there and asking people to contribute to a private organization,” Painter said.[431]

Non-Partisan in Nature

Tom Hamburger reported in the Washington Post on February 23, 2013 that Organizing for Action says it will be nonpartisan and steer clear of election activity. "But the line between issue disputes and electoral politics can be a fuzzy one," writes Hamburger. "The first of an expected wave of ads on gun control, for example, has targeted only Republicans. And OFA board member Jim Messina, who managed Obama’s reelection campaign, has been talking with Democratic Party leaders, including those responsible for success in the 2014 midterm elections."[432]

States with Swing Votes in Congress Don't Line Up with Obama's Battleground States

Beth Reinhard reported in National Journal on March 13, 2013 that one of the biggest challenges facing OFA is that states hosting the swing votes on the big issues before Congress don’t necessarily line up with the battleground states where Obama’s campaign was focused in 2008 and 2012 making a tough mid-term election could be an awkward time to test-drive an outside advocacy group closely linked to the president. "Organizing around an election is much different than organizing around a legislative vote,” said Democratic consultant Phil Singer, who worked for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee when his party took back the chamber in 2006. “If you’re going to get anything done on guns, for example, you’re going to need those red House districts." [433]

However OFA spokeswoman Katie Hogan dismissed the idea that the organization would be at a disadvantage in states that were not hanging in the balance in presidential election years. “OFA has supporters and volunteers from every corner of the country, in all 50 states, coming together to support important issues like curbing gun violence, immigration reform, and ensuring a stronger middle class,” she said in an e-mail. “We will be discussing the differences in organizing around issue advocacy at our founders' summit as many of our organizers are more familiar with organizing around an election day.”[434]

Independence from the DNC

Ken Thomas reported in the Associated Press on January 13, 2013 that OFA will be separate from the DNC, a move that could irritate some Democrats who say that the president is more interested in protecting his own "brand," than in building the party.[435] "This just dwarfs any part of the Democratic coalition," said Democratic strategist Joe Trippi. "This is the biggest leg of the stool. There are really significant implications in terms of the permanent power center within the party."[436]

Zeke J. Miller wrote in Time Magazine on April 1, 2013 that the Democratic National Committee is learning to live with President Barack Obama’s permanent political presence – the independent issues group Organizing for Action - as some worry that the independent organizations will fight for resources and attention from the president and supporters. "The Democratic National Committee is nearly $22 million in debt, largely the result of a $15 million loan due next June taken shortly after the Democratic Convention last year," writes Miller. "[The] competition for fundraising with the new Obama organization has some state party officials worried. With Obama safely in office for four more years, they wonder if the national party can convert Obama donors to give to the Democratic Party."[437]

Others see the independence from the DNC as a strength of the new organization. Molly Ball wrote in the Atlantic on January 29, 2013 that the original Organizing for America, formed after Obama's election in 2008, was largely blamed for having squandered the momentum of Obama's first victory, allowing the president to get mired in D.C. deal-making and leaving his rank-and-file supporters out in the cold. Most veterans of the group acknowledge that Organizing for America took too long to get started, lacked a focused mission, didn't play well with other actors (such as local Democratic parties) and, because of its affiliation with the DNC, suffered from conflicting imperatives. Was its job to push Obama's plans, or was it to get more Democrats elected? "The biggest problem with being inside the DNC was that we couldn't put pressure on Democrats," said one Organizing for America veteran. "On health care, we really needed to hold Democrats accountable for standing up on the issue, but they could just call up the DNC if we caused any headache for them," the former OFA 2.0 staffer said. "When your paycheck is coming from the organization whose job it is to reelect these people, they can reasonably expect that you're not going to give them a hard time."[438]

Major Activities on Organizing for Action

Jon Carson addresses the National Preparedness Symposium in August 2012. Photo: FEMA

See also:

January 19, 2013: Liberal Mega-Donors meet at "The Road Ahead Conference" to Hear Pitch for OFA

Kennerth P. Vogel, Tarini Parti, and Byron Tau reported in Politico on January 25, 2013 that in its first days Organizing for Action has closely affiliated itself with insider liberal organizations funded by mega-donors like George Soros and corporations such as Lockheed Martin, Citi and Duke Energy quietly seeking "support from the same rich donors who backed Obama’s campaigns, asking for help from Democratic donors and bundlers in town for the Inauguration at a closed-door corporate-sponsored confab that featured Bill Clinton as the keynote speaker." Mega-donors met at the the Newseum on January 19, 2013 by invitation only. "Dubbed the “Road Ahead” meeting, the conference was sponsored by a White House-allied trade association called Business Forward, which is funded by major corporations including Microsoft, Walmart and PG&E – each of which sent senior executives to participate in a panel on how to boost American economic competitiveness," write Vogel, Parti, and Tau. "Carson told the donors, who were treated to cocktails and light hors d’oeuvres after the day’s sessions, "there’s going to be a place for each and every one of you,'" adding that big donors were only part of the formula. “From the grassroots volunteers, to every one of you, we need you in this fight to reduce gun violence. In finally holding Republicans accountable for being climate deniers. In everything from tackling these budget issues to immigration, we are going to put this army to work.”[439]

January 20, 2013: Grass Roots Volunteers meet at "Obama Campaign Legacy Conference" to Discuss OFA

Fredreka Schouten reported in USA Today on January 18, 2013 that about 4,000 Obama supporters in Washington to witness his inauguration are expected to attend a "campaign legacy conference" to discuss the next steps for Organizing for Action, aimed at mobilizing supporters to back Obama's policy agenda.[440] Nancy Scola reported in the Atlantic on January 22. 2013 that over 1,000 team leaders and team members met at the Obama Campaign Legacy Conference on January 20, 2013[441] at the Washington Hilton Hotel.[442] "The goal of the one-day Obama Campaign Legacy Conference was to rethink the mechanics of American politics one more time. Campaigns traditionally scatter to the winds, whether the candidate wins or loses, after election day," writes Scola. "So Organizing for Action wants to replicate those tactics now that they're done putting Barack Obama in office."[443]

Carson said at the conference that volunteers already have the knowledge of how to use mass mobilization to shape public policy. "I would posit that we've learned how to beat these Republicans," said Carson. It involves mastering the issues, decoding the system, and organizing close to home. In 2011, Republicans proposed defunding the obscure Corporation for National and Community Service. On Twitter and in town halls, progressives pounced, said Carson, asking "'Congressman, why did you just vote to rid of half the volunteers here in our Red Cross in Peoria?'" The usual response, per Carson: "What are you talking about?'" Such targeted agitation paid off. "As were negotiating with them, one the of the first things they threw on the table was, 'Oh my gosh, let's just fully fund AmeriCorps. They're driving us nuts back in our districts.' The Tea Party wouldn't let them cave, but behind the scenes we were winning those fights time and time again." "The cherry on top is when they don't see it coming," joked Carson.[444]

Byron Tau reported in Politico on January 20, 2013 that Obama campaign staffers and volunteers met on January 20, 2013 to discuss the future of their movement and the ways they can support President Barack Obama’s legislative agenda. “You’re all here to decide what our legacy should be,” said Carson. Aides say the new organization will be structured to allow volunteers to open local chapters across the country and that chapters that bring in enough via fundraising can open field offices and get access to the campaign’s data. "Carson declined to address charges by some liberal activists and government watchdog groups that a grass-roots group shouldn’t be accepting unlimited corporate and individual donations, saying that it will be an issues-oriented advocacy group," writes Tau. "Carson also said that the Obama campaign’s remaining financial resources could not be transferred to the new nonprofit — it will have to start from scratch."[445]

January 20, 2013: OFA to Marshall Support Behind Obama's Legislative Agenda

Ken Thomas reported for the Associated Press on January 20, 2013 that campaign officials vow to use OFA to marshal support behind Obama's legislative agenda, an arrangement unprecedented for a sitting president—essentially transforming his re-election campaign into an organization to back up his efforts in Congress. "We know it is time to reform our broken immigration system, and we will get it done this year," said Carson. "We are going to take it to them on reducing gun violence, on climate change. And we are going to take this network and finish some jobs that we started," Carson said, pointing to the sweeping health care law signed by Obama.[446]

“We are going to take this network and we are going finish some jobs we started in the first term,” said Carson. “You passed the Affordable Care Act, and now it’s time to get 40 million people registered for insurance all across this country.” Carson also vowed that the group would make “Republicans accountable for being climate change deniers, and we will go after them.”[447]

January 20, 2013: Carson Says OFA Will Make Its Mark Quickly in Gun Control

Ken Thomas reported for the Associated Press on January 20, 2013 that that Carson said OFA planned to make its mark quickly, previewing the upcoming fight over gun control in the aftermath of last month's deadly school shooting in Connecticut. "There are dozens of districts in this country where Republicans have no business being proud of the fact that they're endorsed by the (National Rifle Association). And we will go to those districts, and we will run ads, and we will be on their Facebook pages," Carson said. "We will go to those people in their districts who might not be too excited to hear that their member of Congress doesn't think we should pass an assault weapons ban or have background checks for everyone who wants to purchase a gun," Carson said. "We will take every lesson learned and create some new ones."[448]

January 20, 2013: Carson Sends email Introducing Himself and OFA

Joe Gandelman reported on the Moderate Voice on January 20, 2013 that Carson sent an email to activists introducing himself and OFA:

Friend –

I’m Jon Carson, the new executive director of Organizing for Action.

I hope you’re as excited as I am for this new organization, and for what our grassroots movement can accomplish in the next four years.

If you haven’t already, you should check out this short video First Lady Michelle Obama recorded about our organization, and then say you’re on board.

Just a little bit about me. I’m a Wisconsin guy, and I grew up on a farm in the western part of the state. In 2007, I joined Barack Obama’s campaign and served as the national field director. After the election, I went to work for the President in the White House, most recently in the Office of Public Engagement.

That brings me to now, when very soon, my family and I will be moving back to Chicago as I start this new role with all of you.

I first joined the President’s campaign because I was inspired by his belief that ordinary people have the power to change our country if we work together to get it done — and that belief will be at the core of this new organization as it unfolds.

And the way we’ll get it done can be summed up in one word: local.

That means each city or region will have its own OFA chapter, and you’ll decide the issues your community cares about most, the work you want to do to make progress on them, and the kind of support you’ll need to get it done.

At a neighborhood and regional level, OFA members will grow their local chapters, bringing in new leaders and helping train a new generation of volunteers and organizers to help fight for the issues at stake.

There’ll be times when we pull together at the national level to get President Obama’s back on passing major legislation, like reducing gun violence or immigration reform. And we’ll all work to help transform Washington from the outside while strengthening our economy and creating jobs.

But for the most part, the direction our work takes will be completely in your hands — with the support of this organization behind you every step of the way.

In the next few weeks and months, I’ll be asking for your input on putting together an OFA plan for 2013, we’ll be holding online briefings about the issues we want to tackle, and we’ll start organizing on those issues as they’re debated in D.C.

But for right now, I just want to say thanks and welcome. There’s a lot to be done, without a doubt — and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be part of OFA with you.

Take a look at the video the First Lady recorded this week, and go ahead — say you’re in:

http://my.barackobama.com/Organizing-for-Action

I’ll be in touch soon.

Thanks,

Jon

Jon Carson, Executive Director, Organizing for Action[449]

January 30, 2013: Unions, Hollywood open to Bankrolling OFA

Kevin Bogardus reported in the Hill on January 30, 2013 that labor unions and Hollywood donors are open to bankrolling Organizing for Action. “If Organizing for Action mobilizes or communicates on issues that are directly germane to or beneficial to the interests of professional firefighters, we would consider supporting the effort,” said Kevin O’Connor, head of governmental and political affairs for the International Association of Fire Fighters. “For those in the labor movement, it is going to depend on what that agenda is. … For example, if [Obama] agrees to have the chained CPI for Social Security, we oppose that. If the apparatus moves behind that, we would not be supporting that,” said Bob Nicklas, political action director for the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE).[450]

February 1, 2013: Carson Says "Enroll for America" is Leading the Charge on Health Care Implementation

Kenneth Vogel and Jennifer Haberkorn wrote in Politico on February 1, 2013 that Organizing for Action and Enroll America, a group led by two former Obama staffers that features several insurance company bigwigs on its board, are planning to unleash the same grass-roots mobilization and sophisticated micro-targeting tactics seen in the 2012 campaign to try to get 30 million uninsured Americans to buy health insurance. Enroll America’s strategy is to advise state leaders and target the uninsured themselves to help them navigate the new system, which includes expanded Medicaid, tax credits to subsidize insurance, and new online marketplaces called health insurance exchanges. "There is a whole long list of fights we won in the first term that we have to implement now,” said Carson. “First among those is the challenge and opportunity to get 40 million Americans on health care insurance through the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.” Carson called Enroll America the “group that’s going to be leading the charge on health care implementation.”[451]

February 11, 2013: Carson Says Obama Will Issue a "call to action on climate change" During the State of the Union

Julie Pace reported in the Washington Post on February 11, 2013 that Carson told supporters that Obama would issue a "call to action on climate change" during the State of the Union, though he offered no specific details on what that would entail. OFA officials are planning two "national days of action," one focused on gun violence on Feb. 22 and another centered on the budget in early March.[452]

The White House and outside supporters of President Barack Obama are launching simultaneous social media, public outreach and fundraising campaigns tied to Tuesday's State of the Union address. The efforts will concentrate on key issues Obama will raise in his prime-time address to a joint session of Congress: jobs and the budget, gun control, immigration and climate change. The wide-ranging outreach reflects a decision by the president and his advisers to focus more on using public support to pressure Congress rather than getting bogged down in partisan fights with lawmakers. Immediately following Tuesday's address, Obama will hold a conference call with supporters attending State of the Union watch parties hosted by Organizing for Action. The president will personally join the social media effort Thursday during an online discussion on Google, known as a "hangout."[453]

"When President Obama leaves the Capitol on Tuesday night after delivering the State of the Union, we're excited to let you know that he'll get on the phone to speak with the folks who are going to help make his plan a reality: supporters like you," OFA organizing director Jon Carson wrote in an email. "This is a great opportunity to hear directly from the president about how we can help finish what we started. We've got momentum — let's keep it going." The administration invited 100 supporters on the president’s social media networks to watch the speech at a White House viewing party, and Obama will travel to North Carolina, Georgia, and Illinois in the coming days to rally support for his proposals. The call with supporters will likely dovetail with those efforts.[454]

February 12, 2013: Carson Helps Fund Raise with Hollywood Insiders

Tina Daunt reported in Hollywood Reporter on February 12, 2013 that Jon Carson, Jim Messina, and Rufus Gifford spent the evening of February 12, 2013 networking with entertainment industry insiders at TV producer Marcy Carsey's house to rally support and raise funds. A select group of about 30 people, including Warner Bros. Entertainment CEO Barry Meyer, investment fund manager Tom Unterman -- who has many Hollywood clients -- and wife Janet, political consultants Marge Tabankin and Noah Mamet, Tennis Chanel CEO and DNC mega-fundraiser Ken Solomon, former U.S. Rep. Mel Levine and Democratic activist Hope Warschaw were invited to watch Obama's State of the Union Address with Obama's top campaign brass. On February 13, 2013 the OFA representatives attend a breakfast hosted by the DNC's Southern California finance co-chair John Emerson and later, Carson, Messina and Gifford are set to mingle with Obama campaign donors at a lunch hosted by the law firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp.[455] Matea Gold reported in the LA Times on February 14, 2012 that the reception was largely positive among the big donors and bundlers, several of whom expressed satisfaction that there was a plan in place to press Obama's agenda. There is strong support for gun control measures, in particular. "The reaction is, 'Great, we were wondering what we do next,' " said one.[456]

February 13, 2013: 133,000 OFA Activists Registered for a Conference Call following the State of the Union Address

Janie Lorber reported in Roll Call on February 13, 2013 that oughly 133,000 OFA activists registered for a Tuesday conference call following the State of the Union address. Obama, who joined former Campaign Manager Jim Messina and OFA Executive Director Jon Carson on the call shortly after he finished his speech, asked volunteers to rally around his proposals on immigration, climate change and job creation. “It’s people like you who are going to help us realize the vision I spoke about tonight,” Obama said. “We gotta get organized.”[457]

February 13, 2013: OFA Plans 'National Day of Action' to Mobilize Grass Roots on Guns

Janie Lorber reported in Roll Call on February 13, 2013 that Organizing for Action is planning its first official mobilization in support of President Barack Obama’s proposals to curtail gun violence with a “national day of action” on February 22, 2013.[458]

February 18, 2013: Organizing for Action Violates IRS Rules for 501(c)(4) Organizations

Jeryl Bier writes in the Weekly Standard on February 18, 2013 that OFA continues to be used to promote Democratic party causes and candidates in violation of IRS rules regarding 501(c)(4) organizations such as OFA that prohibit advocating on behalf of candidates and political parties. "Two weeks ago, an event for the Terry McAuliffe campaign for governor in Virginia was listed for several days before being removed," writes Bier. "Now, the regional field director of the Ed Markey for U.S. Senate (Massachusetts) is listed as the host of a phone bank event to "let people know that Ed Markey, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate will be in Pittsfield on Tuesday, February 19th." OFA responded quickly after the news broke of the McAuliffe event listing and removed the event.[459]

Matea Gold reported for the LA Times on February 7, 2013 that Organizing for Action has stated that neither it not its local chapters “will be involved in any way in elections or partisan political activity. Its exclusive purpose is public policy advocacy and development, and in particular, both enactment of President Obama's legislative agenda and the identification and advancement of other goals for progressive change at the state and local level.”[460]

February 21, 2013: Organizing for Action Targets GOP Lawmakers in First Ad Buy

Matea Gold reported in the LA Times on February 21, 2013 that OFA made its first ad buy, which cost close to six figures, targeting 16 GOP legislators in an online ad campaign urging them to back a more robust background check system for gun sales. "Reps. Jeff Denham, Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, Gary G. Miller and David Valadao are among those featured in the banner ads, which begin running Friday on the websites of local news outlets such as the Modesto Bee and Santa Clarita Valley Signal," writes Gold. "The ads, tailored with the photos and Twitter handle of each member of Congress, call on them to support universal background checks." OFA officials said the group will hold future activities to rally support for the other planks of Obama’s gun control proposal, which include an assault weapons ban and limits on high-capacity magazines.[461]

February 22, 2013: OFA Holds National "Day of Action" on Guns

Philip Rucker reported in the Washington Post on February 22, 2013 that OFA held its first “day of action,” on February 22, 2013 staging more than 100 events across the country including house parties to write letters to the media and Congress, rallies featuring local surrogates such as police chiefs and mayors, and candlelight vigils to remember people who have been killed in shootings. The events were focused on background checks, the most popular of Obama’s gun-control proposals. With Congress members still at home for recess, OFA officials hope the events and online ads will help demonstrate grass-roots support for toughening background-check requirements. Carson e-mailed Obama supporters urging them to tweet or call their members of Congress. “If Congress passes legislation requiring universal background checks — which are supported by 92 percent of Americans and even 74 percent of NRA members — it will be an important step toward keeping our kids and communities safer from gun violence,” Carson wrote in the e-mails. “But it won’t happen unless we demand it. . . . With just a couple clicks, you and many other constituents will create a drumbeat that can’t be ignored.”[462]

Matea Gold reported in the LA Times on February 27, 2013 that OFA's "Day of Action" had no discernible effect on negotiations in the Senate.[463]

Your Houston News reported on March 4, 2013 that Congressman Steve Stockman (R-Texas 36) sent certified letters to The White House and Organizing for America on February 26, 2013 requesting all documentation on Obama’s anti-gun campaign to determine what, if any, fraudulent or deceptive tactics are being used. Stockman says that he received only 16 messages during the "Day of Action" and that only one could be verified as coming from an actual constituent. “For the President himself to issue a call to action and only get 16 responses, only one of which can be verified as an actual constituent, is a massive failure," said Stockman. “We get hundreds of real emails, phone calls and letters every day from real constituents who have composed their own messages supporting the civil right to keep and bear arms. "[464]

February 22, 2013: OFA Donors of $500,000 Will Attend Quarterly Meetings with the President

Nicholas Confessore reported in the NY Times on February 22, 2013 that in private meetings and phone calls, Obama’s aides in OFA have made clear that the new organization will rely heavily on a small number of deep-pocketed donors with at least half of the group’s budget will come from a select group of donors who will each contribute or raise $500,000 or more, according to donors and strategists involved in the effort. Organizing for Action will hold a “founders summit” in March, 2013 where donors paying $50,000 each will mingle with Mr. Obama’s former campaign manager, Jim Messina, and Carson. Giving or raising $500,000 or more puts donors on a national advisory board for Mr. Obama’s group and the privilege of attending quarterly meetings with the president, along with other meetings at the White House.[465]

“It just smells,” said Bob Edgar, the president of Common Cause, which advocates tighter regulation of campaign money. “The president is setting a very bad model setting up this organization.”[466]

Samuel P. Jacbos wrote in the Chicago Tribune on March 12, 2013 that or the most part, Democratic donors have brushed off the criticism as mock outrage. "Oh my god! A president is helping raise money for something where you might be able to meet him?" said Dick Harpootlian, a money bundler for the president, who hired Carson a decade ago to assist with turnout efforts for the South Carolina Democratic Party. "C'mon, guys. This is the real world. I don't know who the hell out there thinks that people who raise money don't get to meet the president."[467]

February 25, 2013: White House Denies Selling Access to President Through OFA

Dave Boyer reported in the Washington Times on February 25, 2013 that the White House refuted a report on February 22, 2013 that President Obama’s former campaign team is selling access to him for wealthy donors who contribute at least $500,000 to OFA. White House press secretary Jay Carney offered a flat “no” when asked by reporters if donors to the group Organizing for Action — a spinoff of Obama for America — would be rewarded with quarterly meetings with Obama in exchange for their hefty contributions to the tax-exempt group. “Of course not,” Mr. Carney said “The president is engaged in an effort to pass items on his agenda. And outside organizations that support that agenda … like organizations that support his manufacturing agenda, administration officials can meet with them. This is an independent organization.”[468]

February 27, 2013: OFA Begins Campaign to Show How Sequester Will Disrupt People's Lives

Matea Gold reported in the LA Times on February 27, 2013 that Organizing for Action has began a campaign to collect personal stories and promote the stories on Twitter and Facebook that show how the sequester would disrupt people's lives in an effort to cast Republicans as protectors of the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. "Our focus will really be on the ground and explaining what the budget fight means to local communities," says Carson. The move comes as the White House seeks to drive home the potential effects of the automatic cuts, known as the sequester. "The parallel efforts underscore how the pro-Obama group is already entwined with administration strategy, even as White House officials emphasize the group's independent status," writes Gold."[469]

February 27, 2013: Obama Expected to Appear at OFA "Founder's Summit" on March 13

Matea Gold reported in the LA Times on February 27, 2013 that top fundraisers, volunteer organizers and former Obama campaign staff members are expected to attend a "founders summit" at a Washington hotel on March 13, where donors expect Obama may appear.[470]

March 7, 2013: Jim Messina Says OFA Will Not Accept Contributions from Corporations

Jim Messina, national chairman of Organizing for Action,, wrote an op-ed that appeared on CNN on March 7, 2013 defending Organizing for Action and its fund-raising methods. "There has been some confusion about what Organizing for Action is and is not. Organizing for Action is an issue advocacy group, not an electoral one. We'll mobilize to support the president's agenda, but we won't do so on behalf of political candidates.," writes Messina. "While Organizing for Action is a nonprofit social welfare organization that faces a lower disclosure threshold than a political campaign, we believe in being open and transparent. That's why every donor who gives $250 or more to this organization will be disclosed on the website with the exact amount they give on a quarterly basis. We have now decided not to accept contributions from corporations, federal lobbyists or foreign donors."[471]

March 7, 2013: OFA Won't Disclose Location of "Founder's Summit"

Lachlan Markay reported in the Washington Free Beacon that OFA has refused to disclose the location of a secretive donor meeting it will hold in Washington, D.C. on March 13, 2013. "Staff at the organization’s downtown Washington, D.C., office would not answer questions about the event. Multiple attempts to reach OFA spokesperson Katie Hogan at a phone number provided by office staff were unsuccessful. Hogan also did not reply to multiple emails," writes Markey. "Their refusal to disclose information on the event coincided with attempts by OFA to reassure critics that the organization will be transparent and ethical."[472]

Beth Reinhard reported in the National Journal on March 12, 2013 that the donor's meeting will be held in the St. Regis Hotel in Washington.[473]

March 8, 2013: Activists Slow to Donate to OFA

Fredreka Schouten reported in USA Today on March 8, 2013 that some of the largest contributors to President Obama's re-election efforts have not yet donated to OFA. Gay rights activist Mel Heifetz wrote a $1 million check to Priorities USA Action last year because he found Obama to be an inspirational figure and was appalled by the thought of Republican Mitt Romney winning the presidency but he has been deluged by solicitations from Democrats coast-to-coast in the months since and is reluctant to be quite so generous again. "I have seen the solicitations" from OFA, Heifetz said. "I might give a few thousand dollars ... But I haven't really had time to read the material and focus on what he's doing."[474]

Lisa Lerer and Julie Bykowicz reported in Bloomberg on March 12, 2013 some top party donors and fundraisers are unenthused about supporting OFA. “I’m just not ready to start writing checks; it’s only 60 days since President Obama got sworn in,” said Mel Heifetz, a Philadelphia real-estate investor and gay-rights activist, who gave $1 million last year to a super-political action committee that worked to help re-elect Obama." Other major super-PAC donors sitting out at least the initial OFA push include Steve Mostyn, a Texas trial lawyer who gave more than $3 million, and Irwin Jacobs, a California technology entrepreneur, who contributed $2 million. Head of Chicago-based Ariel Investments LLC John Rogers Jr. and former UBS Americas Chairman Robert Wolf, Obama backers who raised millions for his campaigns, don’t plan to attend, either. Democratic donors say the new group may face practical challenges, stressing the difficulty of raising money for a cause rather than a candidate. “Most of the people that I hit up for the campaign did it because they did not want to run the risk of Romney getting elected,” said Manuel Sanchez, a Chicago lawyer who helped bring in millions for the campaign through his outreach to the Latino community. “Now you’re talking about purely policy, and frankly it doesn’t have the same pizazz.”[475]

March 12, 2013: Carson writes "OFA not a Partisan Organization" for USA Today

Carson published an op-ed in USA Today on March 12, 2013 defending OFA from charges that it is a partisan organization.

"Special interests have long played an outsized role influencing the policymaking process, so Organizing for Action (OFA) was established to change the balance of power. We are an organization of grassroots volunteers organizing their communities to support immigration reform, gun safety measures, curbs on climate change, and policies that strengthen the economy and the middle class. We are not a partisan organization; we will hold both Republicans and Democrats accountable to ensure that they are advancing the agenda endorsed by the majority of the American people. We are not a political organization, and our focus is issues, not elections. Even though 90% of Americans support universal background checks, in the past members of Congress would still oppose them for fear the NRA would organize against them. Now they have backup from OFA to do the right thing," writes Carson. "It comes as no surprise that many organizations that play by the old rules have attempted to discredit Organizing for Action. But too many Americans have worked too hard over the past six years for us to allow that to happen. You can't change Washington from the inside. It will take a sustained grassroots movement of unprecedented scope to change the way business is done in Washington."[476]

March 13, 2013: Obama Meets with OFA Donors at Founder's Summit

Matea Gold reported at theLA Times onMarch 13, 2013 that hours after courting House Republicans on Capitol Hill, the president urged former campaign donors, staff and volunteers to channel their resources and energy into OFA and said Congress also needed to be pressured from the outside. "The only idea here that we're promoting is the notion that if the American people are speaking out, organized, activated, that may give space here in Washington to do the kind of work — hopefully bipartisan work — that's required," said Obama." "But in order to do that I'm going to need all your help." Obama stayed for two hours at the Organizing for Action dinner, whose attendees included about 75 backers who had been asked to give $50,000 each including Google Chairman Eric Schmidt.[477]

David Plouffe, Obama's longtime political strategist, said in an opening speech that Organizing for Action "is something that should be celebrated, not criticized." Executive Director Jon Carson, who also addressed donors, said OFA is not a partisan organization."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."[478]

March 25, 2013: OFA Enters the Immigration Debate

Michael D. Shear reported in the NY Times on March 25, 2013 that OFA has collected 7,000 stories from supporters, some of whom entered the country illegally or were brought as young children by their parents and plans to jump into the immigration debate with an aggressive online effort using the stories on Twitter, Facebook and blogs to highlight the personal stories of immigrants. “It is clear that America’s immigration system is broken, with so many employers that game the system by hiring undocumented workers and 11 million people living in the shadows,” said Jon Carson. “Neither is good for the economy or the country.” The goal of Organizing for Action’s initiative is to counter any opposition by conservatives to the current legislative effort with support from around the country. “Our supporters know it is time to fix the system that requires responsibility from everyone — both from the workers here that are undocumented and those who hire them — a system that guarantees that everyone is playing by the same rules,” Carson said.[479]

March 25, 2013: OFA Plans to Organize Events Around the Country Including Phone Banks, Press Events, Community Rallies and Letter-Writing Parties

Michael D. Shear reported in the NY Times on March 25, 2013 that starting in April, 203 OFA will move beyond its online effort to organizing its supporters at events around the country. They will include phone banks for supporters to call members of Congress, press events, community rallies and letter-writing parties. The events will run from April 1 to April 7, a week ahead of the unveiling of the Senate immigration plan. Officials at Organizing for Action said they would also continue to hold weekly conference calls with people who are interested in getting more information about how to support the immigration effort. A conference call on immigration last week drew 2,229 participants, organizers said.[480]

March 26, 2013: OFA Joins New York Campaign Finance Reform Fight

Maggie Haberman reported in Politico on March 26, 2013 that OFA is getting involved in a fight for campaign finance reform in New York and plans a conference call with grass-roots supporters Wednesday to urge action in the “fair elections” fight. The email references New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who recently advocated for campaign-finance reform on a tele-town hall. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, will also be on the call, according to the email. Contributions from special interests, lobbyists and corporations are far too influential, disclosure is inadequate, and enforcement of the laws currently on the books is too lax,” it says. “That’s not how democracy should work. So right now, OFA supporters are joining the fight to reduce the influence of special interests in state elections, and put the power back into the hands of New Yorkers.”[481]

Thomas Kaplan reported in the NY Times on March 31, 2013 that OFA has more than 700,000 members in New York and has hired a New York State coordinator to work in large part on the campaign finance effort. “We have a chance for New York State to be a leader in this,” saidCarson on a conference call with volunteers last week. He said that action in Albany could “lead to similar efforts in other states and help us change this overall system.” “It’s the right thing to do,” Carson added. “President Obama has spoken on these issues, and believes in this kind of approach.”[482]

March 27, 2013: OFA "Staring Down" Self-Imposed Fundraising Deadline

Byron Tau and Anna Palmer reported in Politico on March 27, 2013 that OFA is worried about the March 31 filing deadline for FEC quarterly reports even though as a non-profit OFA is not required to file anything quarterly. "Organizing for Action is staring down our first quarterly fundraising deadline — ever,” writes Carson. “After March 31, we'll have a record of the founding members who helped build this organization from the start.” OFA has agreed to release donor information on a quarterly basis.[483]

March 31, 2013: Carson Sends Easter Fundraising Greetings

Paul Bedard reported in the Washington Examiner on April 1, 2013 that Carson dispatched a fundraising email on Easter Sunday in a bid to reach loyal Democrats in between church and Easter dinner. "Look, here's the deal: We're not taking any money from corporations. We're not taking any money from Washington lobbyists. We're going up against some of the most powerful interest groups around -- and we're powered by the grassroots support of people like you. And, if you step up, we're going to win. Donate $5 or more before tonight's midnight deadline to be a founding member of OFA. Thanks -- and from my family to yours, happy Easter."[484]

April 6, 2013: OFA is Ramping Up its Agenda and Already Has State Directors in 42 States

Reid Epstein reported in Politico on April 6, 2013 that what differentiates OFA from other grassroots groups is its combination of large-dollar donations and unpaid local leaders for a carefully built, lasting structure that OFA officials believe will be just as effective in supporting the president as it was in electing him. OFA has divided the country into five regions, with plans for five regional directors on staff based in Chicago to oversee volunteer state leads. OFA already has local chapters with volunteer state directors in 42 of 50 states. "Through regular conference calls and briefing memos, OFA’s leadership of paid, experienced operatives directs volunteer leaders in the states detailing what issues the organization will tackle and strategy will be," writes Epstein. "They tell the state OFA leadership how to hold sessions for new recruits on basics like organizing events, attracting new members, working with like-minded groups and even pitching stories about events to local reporters."[485]

OFA has been alternating its agenda with a week on gun control, then a week on immigration, with some connection to Obama’s White House schedule but now for the first time OFA will run concurrent national campaigns on gun control and immigration, blasting emails to supporters and holding local events. “There’s a set of people whose passion is on gun violence. There are other people whose top passion is the budget fight or the sequester fight. We’re very, very happy with the level of engagement," says Carson. “They are just thrilled to have a chance to work in their own backyard. The reason people were on the campaign, the reason people came to this president in the first place I think our volunteers, they just get it.”[486]

Local OFA leaders held more than 400 local “action planning” sessions during March, 2013. Then local OFA leaders pitch throwing OFA’s support behind a cause to headquarters where it goes to approval before Carson, Messina and OFA senior leadership. “We roughly take a look at it and say, ‘Is this in line with the president’s agenda?’” says Carson adding that gauging OFA supporters’ interest in fighting individual state battles is “a testable question.”[487]

One of Carson's main concerns is training OFA volunteers to speak to reporters and write press releases for local media. “I’m really impressed with the local press coverage of all this. There is clip after clip on evening news and in local papers, with work that our supporters are doing across the country,” says Carson. “Local earned media is one of the top priorities – we’re really impressed with some of the coverage from local reporters.”[488]

April 7, 2013: With Carson's White House Departure, Progressive Are Less Plugged-in writes BuzzFeed

Evan McMorris-Santoro and Ben Smith wrote in BuzzFeed Politics on April 7, 2013 that it's a lot tougher for Obama's allies on the left to get their complaints in the president's orbit in the second term because progressives have lost a lot of their go-to contacts in the administration as White House staff like Jon Carson have split for OFA or other outside organizations. For example, progressives were furious last week, when the White House announced Obama's budget plan will include cuts to entitlements but "none of the activists BuzzFeed talked to this week would admit to being upset about the management changes at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave" write McMorris-Santoro and Smith.[489]

April 10, 2013: OFA Supports Obama's Chained CPI Entitlement Cuts

Reid J. Epstein reported in Politico on April 10, 2013 that Carson told volunteers during his weekly policy call that the chained CPI Obama included in Obama's budget is the price of progress during an era of divided government. “What I think we all need to recognize is that we, Democrats do not have control of the House of Representatives. It is incumbent upon us to make it clear what is at stake here and what the two sides stand for,” said Carson. “It’s important to get the facts out there and always compare this to proposals that we have seen from the other side. Proposals that Republicans in Congress have tripled down on now at this point, in turning Medicare into a voucher program and making massive, massive cuts to programs like Medicaid.” Carson reiterated that Obama won’t give away the store on chained CPI unless Republicans concede on the new tax revenue the White House seeks. “We are only going to see changes like CPI when the Republicans are willing … to compromise on asking millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share.”[490]

April 10, 2013: Carson Thinks Defense Cuts Were Too Deep

Joshua Green reported in Businessweek on April 10, 2013 that in August, 2012 Carson said that the $1.2 trillion sequestration cuts in social programs and the military budget that were part of the fiscal cliff worried him and other officials."They're too deep." said Carson. "Although sequestration was delayed until March 1, those cuts ultimately were not averted. The Pentagon budget will be cut by $500 billion over the next decade (an additional $100 billion in deficit reduction comes from interest savings)," writes Green. "Although the White House doesn’t advertise this fact in the six-page budget overview it put out this morning, the new budget eliminates nearly all of the cuts that sequestration imposes on the Pentagon. Instead of $500 billion in cuts, Obama proposes only $100 billion, and you have to look closely to spot it (“$200 billion in additional discretionary savings, with equal amounts from defense and nondefense programs”)."[491]

April 12, 2013: Carson Says OFA Raised $4.8 Million in First Quarter

Gabriel Debenedetti reported on Reuters on April 12, 2013 that an email from executive director Jon Carson to supporters said that OFA received contributions from 109,582 donors, averaging $44 per donation for a total of more than $4.8 million during the first quarter of 2013.[492] “That’s incredible, and the way it should be. People — especially the special interests on the other side — are taking notice of what this grass-roots-funded organization is up to. We’re digging in, we’re speaking out, and we’re amplifying the voices of ordinary Americans on some of the biggest issues of our time,” wrote Carson. “To anyone who thought we couldn’t do this, these numbers send a pretty clear message. It’s never been done before, but supporters like you are doing it. Now my question to you is: Are you going to let those founding members do it all on their own, or are you going to join them? It’s not too late." Donors included included Philip Munger, a philanthropist whose father is a partner of Warren Buffett and who gave $250,000; John Goldman, a California philanthropist who is a former chairman of Willis Insurance Services, who gave $125,000; and Nicola Miner, the daughter of a co-founder of the Oracle Corporation, also gave $125,000. However the vast majority of the contributions were small, officials at the organization said.[493][494]

According to Matea Gold, writing in the LA Times on May 4, 2013, OFA so far has raised only $5 million after setting a goal of raising $50 million this year.[495]

April 18, 2013: OFA Will Go After Senators Who Voted Against Expanding Background Checks

Matea Gold reported in the LA Times on April 18, 2013 that Jon Carson, executive director of Organizing for Action, says that that the OFA will train its resources against the 45 senators who opposed legislation to expand background checks on gun sales, including four Democrats: Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. “What is happening right now is the reason that OFA needs to be here: to harness the energy and determination of people. I think everyone would agree that the American people are on our side on this.... We need to show that the 90% on our side have staying power," said Carson. “This is one of those moments where we have to prove that in the face of a setback we’re not backing down. That’s the calculation that some senators were mistaken on.... The consequences they’re going to have to face are a bunch of angry constituents who are going to keep the issue alive.” Carson added that OFA will support Repulbicans who backed the measure, including the Republican co-sponsor, Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania. “Our volunteers are ready to show Pat Toomey how much they appreciate his leadership,” said Carson.[496][497]

"Organizing for Action's decision to cross party lines in its advocacy will test the unorthodox path being chartered by the organization, which was built on the infrastructure of Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign," wrote Gold. "Still, the group’s decision to pressure Democrats over their opposition to the background check measure could exacerbate tensions. Organizing for Action does not engage in electoral politics, but its attacks on the gun bill could put lawmakers on the defensive."[498]

According to Philip Rucker writing in the Washington Post on April 18, 2013, gun control proponents will attempt to shame opposing senators and stoke enough public outcry in their home states in the short term to force them to switch positions but if that fails, their long-term strategy is to help elect new ones. "“They clearly had a calculation that the other side had more passion and staying power. We’re going to show them that they’re wrong,” said Carson. “When people understand their senator voted against expanding background checks to cover all commercial sales, to cover things like buying guns over the Internet, they’re outraged. People who we hadn’t heard from are now coming to us saying, ‘How do I sign up?’”[499]

April 24, 2013: Carson Unconcerned about Dangers of Hitting Democrats on Gun Control

Alexandra Jaffe reported in "The Hill" on April 24, 2013 that Carson is not worried that Democrats in the Senate who voted against legislation to expand background checks on firearm purchases will suffer politically from attacks that OFA is preparing in retaliation for their votes against gun control legislation. “No — we’re concerned about [them] not passing this background check bill,” said Carson. “We’re going to look to change votes on both the Democrat and the Republican side." Carson pushed back against the idea that pressuring red-state Democrats to support gun control could be harmful to their reelection prospects. “I disagree with that political calculus. I think it’s very clear that even in those red states, there’s overwhelming support for background checks,” said Carson adding that senators who voted “no” made the wrong calculation in concluding that the gun lobby had more staying power than activists who favor tighter restrictions on guns. “I think what we are now about to set out to prove is that the passion gap has dramatically closed on this issue, that our side is outraged."[500]

April 24, 2013: OFA Attacks GOP on Climate Change

Zack Colman reported in "The Hill" on April 25, 2013 that Carson sent out an email to supporters on April 24, 2013 calling "these climate deniers out.” “If we ever want to see real progress on climate change, we need to change the conversation in Washington — right now. We need every member of Congress to be part of the solution,” said Carson in the email. “OFA is going to hold these climate deniers accountable — even if we have to go one by one.” OFA asked supporters to sign a petition advocating action on climate change and shared a video showing congressional Republicans expressing skepticism about or denying climate change.[501] "Right now, way too many lawmakers in Washington flat-out refuse to face the facts when it comes to climate change. We're never going to make real progress on this issue unless members of Congress get serious. Instead, some of them have made a habit of publicly mocking it. We thought it was time to call them out for denying what's basic science."[502]

May 1, 2013: Carson to Host Small-Dollar Fundraiser

Reid Epstein reported in Politico on May 1, 2013 that Carson will appear at a small-dollar New York fundraiser on May 6, 2013 organized by Kate Stevens, OFA’s New York state coordinator. Tickets start at $25 for the fundraiser and the invitation asks for contributions up to $1,000 for the reception, which is to be held at "The Liberty NYC" bar in Midtown Manhattan at 29 West 35th Street.[503][504]

May 4, 2013: Carson Makes Pitch to Donors from Democracy Alliance

Matea Gold wrote in the LA Times on May 4, 2013 that some of the country's wealthiest liberal political donors are steering resources to OFA on the recommendation of Democracy Alliance, an invitation-only group that makes funding recommendations to its members who include billionaire investor George Soros and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. The endorsement could deliver a cash infusion for OFA which so far has raised only $5 million after setting a goal of raising $50 million this year. "Democracy Alliance does not make donations," writes Gold. "Rather, the staff recommends recipients to its roughly 100 members, who pay annual dues of $30,000. Members are required to contribute at least $200,000 a year to organizations in the group's portfolio."[505]

Carson made a pitch for OFA at the recent Democracy Alliance that drew more than 150 donors and activists for sessions on topics such as the economy, gun control and climate change. "One thing we've made very clear to everyone is we're going to work very collaboratively with everyone out there in the progressive infrastructure," Carson said. "We're going to focus on the pieces we bring to the table and not duplicate things." According to Rob McKay, a San Francisco-based philanthropist and chairman of the group, Carson assuaged worries that Organizing for Action, run by former Obama campaign officials, would compete with other groups. "The biggest concern would be if OFA was just going to try to re-create the wheel in a bunch of areas where we felt significant investments have been made," Carson said.[506]

May 6, 2013: Carson Says OFA Will Add More Paid Organizers

Reid J. Epstein reported on Politico on May 6, 2013 that Carson told reporters on a conference call on May 6, 2013 that OFA is adding paid organizers. “Due to our successful first quarter fundraising effort, we’re going to be putting issue organizers on the ground in targeted locations as we begin a sustained push to pass comprehensive immigration reform and keep up the pressure and accountability on the background check bill,” Carson said on the call. “This will equip thousands of volunteers we have on the ground across the country to convince their members of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.”[507]

May 7, 2013: OFA to Deliver Million Signature Petition Calling for Background Checks

Devin Dwyer reported on ABC News on May 7, 2013 that Carson says OFA will continue agitating until they get vote on expanded background checks for gun buyers and that the organization will deliver a petition to Congress this week with more than a more than 1.4 million names[508] “demanding passage of [expanded] background checks." “Our tactics absolutely are working,” he said, when asked about the background checks vote.[509] "We'll never be as deep-pocketed or as well-connected as the gun lobby," Carson wrote in an email to supporters. "What we have is better. It's the voices of real Americans who are standing up and saying they've seen enough of gun violence tearing apart communities like Newtown and Tucson and Aurora and Chicago."[510] The petition, addressed to Reid, Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, points out an overwhelming number of Americans supporting extending background checks.[511]

May 7, 2013: OFA Will Gear Up for Elections in 2014

Alana Goodman reported in the Free Beacon on May 7, 2013 that Carson says that OFA will halt its single-issue fundraising during the 2014 midterm elections in order to free up resources for the “campaign side.” "At the appropriate point, in 2014, you will stop seeing email ‘asks’ from us around a given issue, and the campaign side will take over,” Carson told a crowd of around 40 attendees. “Now, as a nonprofit, non-electoral organization, we won’t ever send out an email saying, ‘Now go work for candidate such-and-such.’ But here’s the thing, we’re going to organize people around these issues, and one of two things is gonna happen. Either Republicans like Jeff Flake and others are gonna realize they better start voting the right way, or I think we’re going to have a pretty energized army of people ready to go over to that electoral side. So that’s how we see that happening in 2014.”[512]

May 11, 2013: Washington Post Says OFA Has Yet to Make Much of a Mark

Juliet Eilperin wrote in the Washington Post on May 11, 2013 that "despite its extensive voter-data files and White House connections, OFA has yet to make much of a mark on the nation’s political landscape" and with many of its efforts centered in liberal strongholds and Democratic-leaning swing states, it has had little impact on more conservative areas. Carson says people shouldn’t be surprised that OFA was unable to mobilize a major number of voters in red states represented by Democrats. “We’ve got supporters everywhere,” said Carson, “but we’ve never claimed our major strength is in a place like North Dakota or Alaska.”[513]

In some instances the group has alienated people who otherwise support the president writes Eilperin adding that OFA’s decision to target four conservative Democrats who opposed background checks has angered local party officials in their states. Alaska Democratic Party chair Michael Wenstrup wrote a letter to OFA last week asking the group to “cease its attacks on Democratic senators immediately.” “OFA would be better off targeting Republican senators in Midwest states and in Eastern states than trying to punish Senator Begich,” Wenstrup said.[514]

But Carson says that while the group itself is young, many of its members are longtime political activists and that the combination of OFA rallies and local news coverage is helping change voter attitudes, which in turn places pressure on lawmakers to back Obama’s legislative goals. “Our volunteers did not hatch out of an egg in 2008,” says Carson. “They’ve been fighting on issue campaigns for their whole lives.”[515]

May 14, 2013: Christian Science Monitor says that so far, OFA's Results Have Been Modest

Linda Feldmann reported in the Christian Science Monitor on May 14, 2013 that so far, OFA's results have been modest as Obama failed to win expanded background checks for gun buyers despite polls showing 90 percent public support, OFA has only brought in 10 percent of its fundraising goal for the year. Democrats worry that OFA is working at cross-purposes with the party’s broader political goals. But OFA officials disagree and touting high involvement, including 1.5 million people who have “taken action,” which can mean donating, going to an event, helping OFA earn local media coverage, or tweeting a member of Congress and citing the 1.4 million signatures delivered to Congress supporting the effort to expand background checks on gun buyers which may get another push in Congress.[516]

May 16, 2013: OFA Refuses To Push On Keystone

Ryan Grim and Lucia Graves reported on the Huffington Post on May 16, 2013 that OFA leaders have told gatherings of activists and donors on multiple occasions that OFA will not pressure the White House on Keystone regardless of its members' interest in the project, a reticence that worries those who hoped that the Obama campaign's legacy would be a strong, independent grassroots movement that could bring outside pressure on Washington, rather than continuing to act as an arm of the president. Behind the scenes, several major donors have been pressing OFA to take on the issue but Carson made clear at a recent Climate and Energy Funders meeting in San Francisco that OFA would not be working against Keystone. "In the Q&A a bunch of funders and donors start asking about the pipeline and saying, 'It's the biggest thing going on in the national level in terms of environmental issues,' and the answer everybody kept on getting from him is, 'Well, we're not engaged on that,'" said Farhad Ebrahimi, a major progressive donor. "He really seemed, when he was on stage, that he just wished he didn't have to talk about it." Grim and Graves write that the refusal to take a position on Keystone would be less significant if OFA hadn't decided to make climate change its first major priority. "They're set up not to get ahead of the president" said Betsy Taylor, an advisor to some of the top climate-focused donors, "but it's a deep problem, because it's the most pressing climate issue and they're sitting it out."[517]

"The internal divisions among Obama supporters driven by Keystone threaten to sap dollars and volunteer enthusiasm from Organizing for Action," write Lisa Lerer and Julie Bykowicz in Businessweek on June 17, 2013. "The split may hurt OFA’s ability to build support for the president’s other initiatives, such as immigration and revising the tax code." An OFA fact sheet instructs its activists to stay out of the Keystone fight as the president weighs the environmental impact against the potential jobs to be gained and the energy advantages.[518]

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said he worked closely with Jon Carson, whom he considers a friend, when Carson was director of public engagement at the White House and has repeatedly asked Carson to use OFA’s muscle to stop the pipeline, making the request in person, over the phone, in text messages and through e-mail. “I’m having a contest with myself to see how many ways I can ask the same question,” Brune said in a phone interview. “He says OFA is supporting the president’s agenda, and the president hasn’t come out against this, so it’s not part of the agenda. The answer is always the same. They have great message discipline.”[519]

In recent weeks, longtime Democratic Party donors, have organized a campaign to fight the pipeline and have begun confronting Obama at every fundraiser he’s attended across the country and in May, 2013 150 donors, including Esprit de Corp co-founder Susie Tompkins Buell, actress Blythe Danner, Sun MicroSystems co-founder Vinod Khosla and Robert Kennedy Jr wrote Obama a letter, saying his decision on Keystone “holds a comparable urgency and importance” to President Abraham Lincoln’s move to end slavery. "We have read of your admiration for President Lincoln, surely the most beloved of all presidents," reads the letter. "He made one of the most important decisions of his presidency and for our nation when he decided that he would fight for the 13th Amendment to end slavery even if it took every ounce of his political capital. Your decision on Keystone may not be so weighty, but we believe it holds a comparable urgency and importance, notstrictly as a pipeline decision but as a presidential choice that will signal a fundamentally new direction for our nation"[520][521][522]

May 22, 2013: OFA to Participate on Largest-Ever Virtual March on Washington

The Herald Online reported on May 22, 2013 that Organizing for Action (OFA) will participate in the largest-ever virtual march on Washington in support of bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform in a two-day event that will bring together leaders from politics, business, tech, sports, media, and entertainment to create a digital storm across an array of social media to back bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform legislation. A Twitter Town Hall led by Mayor Michael Bloomberg that will include Jeb Bush, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Condoleezza Rice. "The March for Innovation is another great opportunity for Americans to come together from across the country and from all walks of life to say that they want Washington to pass comprehensive immigration reform," said OFA Executive Director Jon Carson. "The American people have been clear that the time is now for Washington to listen and act to fix our broken immigration system so we can continue to strengthen our country and our economy."[523]

May 30, 2013: OFA to Hold State Summits to Discuss Future

Donovan Slack reported in Politico on May 30, 2013 that OFA is holding "Founders' Summits" around the country the weekend of May 31 and June 1, 2013 to discuss its future direction. "OFA supporters, volunteers, campaign alumni and donors will come together to discuss what OFA has already accomplished as well as our goals and the path forward," said an announcement from the group put together from the remnants of President Obama's campaign organizations. "The event will be a continuation of the conversation that was started at our founders event held in Washington, D.C. in March. OFA supporters, volunteers, campaign alumni and donors will come together to discuss what OFA has already accomplished as well as our goals and the path forward." The Illinois State Founders Summit will be held Friday and Saturday in Obama's hometown of Chicago, and will feature remarks by OFA Chairman Jim Messina and Executive Director Jon Carson. In addition, OFA says 39 regional summits are being held around the country as the organization formally launches its state chapter program.[524][525]

June 13, 2013: OFA to Make National Ad Buy for Affordable Care Act

Politico reported on June 13, 2013 that OFA is planning its first national TV ad buy with spots promoting the Affordable Care Act and "highlighting the successes of the law so far and the benefits soon to kick in."[526]

June 13, 2013: OFA will have 800 "Summer Fellows"

Politico reported on June 13, 2013 that OFA has accepted 811 summer fellows who will volunteer between 15-50 hours a week with volunteer leaders in the states. The class was selected out of over 8,000 applicants, and underwent a competitive interview process. "These fellows will help us achieve goals on multiple fronts—we expect their manpower to yield a 500% increase in organizational capacity over the summer, they will expand and fortify our infrastructure of volunteers moving forward, and at the end of their tenure, we will have hundreds of new, well-trained organizers that we aim to keep involved in the progressive movement," says the memo from Carson. "This new class of fellows represents the future wave of OFA-trained organizers that will leave the program ready to be recruited by coalition partners within the movement—our “alumni” community will continue to grow through this program."[527]

June 17, 2013: OFA Releases First TV Ad Promoting Healthcare Law

The Hill reported on June 17, 2013 that OFA debuted its first television advertisement on June 17, 2013 in a thirty-second spot designed to highlight the benefits of his signature healthcare law with Americans who say they have benefited from the legislation, profiling a doctor who is treating more seniors and a man who received a rebate from his insurer. "Better coverage and lower costs, that's what ObamaCare means for them," says the ad's narrator.[528]

June 20, 2013: OFA Pressed Over Silence on Keystone Pipeline

Amanda Terkel reported on the Huffington Post on June 20, 2013 that Progressives took their concerns over OFA's silence on the Keystone pipeline to Carson and other top OFA officials in a meeting at Palo Alto on June 20, 2013. "For domestic spying, warrantless spying on us or deportations or Keystone, if the administration is the problem or standing in the way, you're not touching it?" asked Robin Beck, executive director of Citizen Engagement Lab. "For me, it's a little tricky to wrap my head around a partnership that ends if it's one part of government versus another." Carson replied that OFA is "defined simply by what we do" and acknowledged the group's volunteers and partners may not agree on every issue, but he hoped they could work together when they do. "I was in Palo Alto last night with a group of 65 of our volunteers, and we talked all this through as a group. I would say 95 percent of them there want the president to deny the Keystone pipeline," he said, adding that OFA supported these individuals joining other groups that oppose Keystone XL. They just wouldn't be able to start a campaign against it through OFA.[529]

Carson added that OFA is focusing on seven issues: budget and economic development, comprehensive immigration reform, reducing gun violence, climate change and the environment, women's issues, Obamacare and local issues (such as marriage equality and fair elections).[530]

June 22, 2013: OFA Cuts 2013 Fundraising Goal from $50 million to $25 million

Matea Gold reported in the Washington Post on June 22, 2013 that OFA has cut its 2013 fundraising goal in half from $50 million to $25 million after slower-than-expected fundraising, according to people familiar with the group’s plans. The decision came after the group reversed course and said it would not accept corporate funds.[531]

June 26, 2013: Carson Praises Supreme Court Ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act

The HuffingtonPost reported on June 26, 2013 that Carson praised the Supreme Court ruling that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional meaning that all couples will be equal in the eyes of the federal law. "For everyone who cares about equality, we've come so far in the past few years," said Carson in en email. "This is a call to action -- this is a fight we will win. We will go state by state if we have to -- backed by a broad movement of millions who know a thing or two about making history. And OFA is going to be there every step of the way."[532]

July 8, 2013: OFA Ad Highlights Obamacare’s Ban on Lifetime Caps

Aaron Blake reported in the Washinton Post on July 8, 2013 that Organizing for Action is up with its second TV ad promoting Obama’s signature health-care legislation featuring the story of a girl named Zoe who had open-heart surgery as a newborn and notes that Obamacare requires no lifetime limits for life-saving coverage and that without it, Zoe would already be halfway to her lifetime coverage maximum. Carson said OFA was “arming our volunteers with the facts” and would conduct trainings for “thousands of people” this month so they could explain to their neighbors and friends why it made sense to enroll in the new program. “Clearly, right now, there are other forces out there, other groups trying to tear this law down,” said Carson.[533][534]

July 22, 2013: Obama to Speak to OFA

Dave Boyer reported at the Washington Times on July 22, 2013 that President Obama will speak to members of Organizing for Action at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington to kick off a monthlong campaign to pressure lawmakers on Obama’s domestic priorities. It’s the second time Obama has spoken to the group.[535] Other speakers will include Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood.[536]

July 22, 2013: Carson Kicks off "Action August"

Dave Boyer reported at the Washington Times on July 22, 2013 that Carson told supporters in an email that the group is gearing up for “Action August” – a month in which its goal is to raise the pressure on lawmakers who will be home for the summer recess on various issues stalled in Congress. “It’s all about making sure members of Congress hear directly from the people they represent, on the issues that matter to all of us,” said Carson. “At the top of the list, a comprehensive immigration reform bill is facing a tough path through the House — and we’re going to be out there demanding action from our representatives.”[537]

July 22, 2013: Obama Rallies OFA to Kick-Start His Second Term Agenda

Matea Gold reported in the Washington Post on July 22, 2013 that President Obama addressed an invitation-only crowd of several hundred Organizing for Action volunteers, staff members and donors gathered at a Washington hotel for a day-long strategy session, urging them to channel their energies into bolstering a new White House focus on the economy and helping the middle class, describing their work on behalf of his agenda as even more important than his reelection campaign. “I miss all you guys!” the president declared to the whooping crowd, calling its work since his reelection “inspiring.” The president said that a speech he is set to give Wednesday will be aimed at refocusing Washington and the news media on the economy, but stressed that he needed grass-roots help to drive home his message. “We’ve got to get folks activated and involved,” said Obama. “Ultimately, what you do day to day, away from the TV cameras, that is what is going to make a powerful difference.”[538]

July 23, 2013: Washington Post Says OFA Embraces Tea Party Blueprint

Edward-Isaac Dovere wrote in the Washinton Post on July 23, 2013 that OFA is preparing a range of under-the-national-radar tactics including rallies, distribution of fliers and district office demonstrations that will be aimed at drawing the same sort of local attention that tea party groups managed four years ago, hoping to spook members of Congress worried about the 2014 midterms. After struggling through its initial phase, regularly drawing small crowds to its first round of events and coming under fire for failing to deliver the impact many expected, OFA has grown more quickly than even its leaders anticipated, raising millions of dollars and hiring 26 state directors. OFA staffers now believe they’re positioned to start transforming OFA into a nexus of organizing tools and know-how to hold the threat of losing elections over whoever stands in the president’s way. “We are going to call them out and let them know,” OFA Executive Director Jon Carson told the crowd of several hundred gathered at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Washington for an event that was equal parts summit, training and pep rally.[539]

Like in the 2009 tea party explosion, OFA's strategy is to start in the districts, rally support there and use that to spark national attention that forces Republicans in the House to change. However, four years ago, the tea party shot to prominence with a simple, one-track message of opposition to Obama and government spending while OFA is looking to keep its supporters motivated by weaving together disparate issues, each appealing at different levels to different constituencies — all while the president himself is touring the country with his own message, which for the moment is focused on economic progress. OFA will begin August 4, Barack Obama's birthday, marking the day with events organized to promote the benefits of Obamacare. That kickoff will be followed by weeks of events across the country, each centered on designated “national days of action” pushing for federal and state moves on climate change, gay marriage, gun control, immigration reform — and, in targeted states like Texas, reproductive and women’s rights. “We are excited for OFA’s Action August," said OFA spokesman Ben Finkenbinder, "where volunteers across the country will be taking all their incredible skills, hard work and passion into their communities, organizing events all month long to keep the pressure on their members of Congress to take action on issues, from comprehensive immigration reform to protecting women’s rights and gun violence prevention to combating climate change.”[540]

July 29, 2013: OFA Launches "Organizing for Action" Web Site for "Action August"

Edward-Isaac Dovere reported on July 29, 2013 that OFA launched a centralized "Action August" web site designed to guide its volunteers in a new more aggressive and more centralized push to use the Congressional recess to break opposition to Obama’s agenda and help regain momentum for his second term with “blizzarding,” house meetings, advocacy events, letters to the editor, action days, “pledge to call” drives, and petitions. “August is a rare month where constituents can change the conversation in their communities while knowing that their representative is home in their district,” said Carson. “It is an organizing opportunity that OFA will be leading.” OFA is hoping volunteers appear at town halls and district offices to confront their members of Congress directly, and that they’ll be out in their neighborhoods handing out flyers and postcards. "They’ve got online petitions for immigration reform, climate change and gun control," writes Dovere, "and they’ve even provided fact sheets—on immigration reform, stressing the economic benefits and the bipartisan bill that passed the Senate but is stuck in the House; on Obamacare focusing on the benefits—especially those already in place; on climate change, pointing to scientific findings; and on gun control arguing for “common sense.” [541]

July 29, 2013: Newsbusters Says OFA's 'Action August' Has No Events Tied to Economy

Tom Blumer wrote on Newsbusters on July 29, 2013 that despite President Obama's promise in his weekly address to "spend every minute of every day doing everything in my power to make this economy work for working Americans again" OFA's four key events for "Action August" include promoting the benefits of Obamacare, immigration reform, climate change, and gun control with no mention of the economy. "Organizing For Action claims that its mission is to 'support President Obama in achieving enactment of the national agenda Americans voted for on Election Day 2012,'" writes Blumer. "The lack of an OFA agenda item even in the neighborhood of the economy would seem to indicate that Team Obama's decision to visit Galesburg, Illinois last week and to make two other economy-related appearances shortly thereafter might be a hasty reaction to bad news relating to economic growth and the job market coming up later this week."[542]

August 4, 2013: Poor Attendance at Obamacare Event in Virginia

Kyle Cheney reported on Politico on August 7, 2013 that Lynn Duvall was the sole volunteer to stay to help work the phone bank promoting Obamacare at an OFA event at Centreville, VA. After a scheduling snafu over the start time, a few people showed up and left before it actually started. "The poor turnout here in Centreville wasn’t necessarily indicative of what’s happening across the country at other OFA events Sunday afternoon and evening, which coincide with President Barack Obama’s birthday," wrote Cheney. "OFA sent out pictures of bigger and more enthusiastic turnout elsewhere, including some events in places like Ohio, Florida and Missouri where volunteer enthusiasm will be needed to overcome state government resistance to implementation. Most of the events were intentionally small-scale — house parties, leafleting near a beach or a farmer’s market, not big rallies." The Centreville event’s lone attendee, Lynn Duvall of Fairfax, Va., told POLITICO that it was her family’s own medical burdens that fueled her passion for Obamacare. Without Obamacare, she said, her son’s illness could have devastated their family finances. “If the Affordable Care Act weren’t there, we would just have to deal with it. If it means we lose all of the assets we’ve saved over our lifetime, that’s what it would be,” said Duvall, who added that she left full-time work to care for her ailing son and aging mother, who she said was on Medicare and Medicaid before passing away at 103. “I would be really panicked if it weren’t for [Obamacare]. I don’t know what he would do.”[543][544]

August 6, 2013: Politico Reports that OFA Pitches Help for Georgia Senate Candidate Michelle Nunn

Reid J. Epstein reported in Politico on August 6, 2013 that OFA Executive Director Jon Carson made a pitch to several political operatives and potential donors to help Georgia Senate candidate Michelle Nunn, marking the first time that President Barack Obama’s political arm has explicitly crossed into Democratic politics. "It’s a dramatic step for the group, founded in January, to help promote the president’s agenda," writes Epstein. "OFA says it’s not endorsing specific candidates or participating in “electoral politics,” but by telling donors that its work will directly help Democratic candidates, OFA is jumping over a partisan boundary it previously had said it wouldn’t cross." OFA earlier this year pledged to avoid any hint of partisan activity. OFA activities are limited by its status as a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization — the type of groups at the center of investigations into how and why the Internal Revenue Service probed their political activities. OFA has yet to file its 501(c)(4) application, and it is not legally required to, but it is treated as such under the law. “They should be careful,” said Lisa Gilbert of Public Citizen. “What you can’t do is cross the line into advocating for or against candidates. They are straddling the line with the way they are organized, and they need to be careful that they stick to issue work.”[545]

August 7, 2013: Carson Restates that OFA Won't Get Involved In Electoral Politics

Sam Stein reported on Huffington Post on August 7, 2013 that Carson says that Organizing for Action will not put resources into political campaigns reiterating past pledges. Carson's remakrs follows a report on Politico on August 6, 2013 that OFA was considering involvement in the Georgia Senate campaign of Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn. "OFA is not going into electoral politics," Carson told The Huffington Post definitively. "We won't be sending emails supporting campaigns and we won't be organizing our volunteers around electoral campaigns." Carson said OFA would promote specific policy issues and highlight and support lawmakers who back the issues so while Nunn may indeed benefit from OFA, the group's backing won't be in the form of a check or a registration drive. "When John McCain (R-Ariz.) supported background checks, we did a thank-you event outside his office," said Carson. "When [Rep.] Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) made steps in a big way towards comprehensive immigration reform, we had volunteers tweeting their thanks at him."[546]

August 12, 2013: Big Donors Could Draw Unwantered Attention to OFA

Gabriel Debenedetti reported on Reuters that when cardiologist Asad Qamar gave $50,000 earlier this year to OFA it was one of the group's biggest single donations from the state of Florida. Qamar said he became involved in the outreach effort to promote Obama's policies partly so that he would have an opportunity to make his case that medical practices like his are suffering because contractors conducting the reviews for the HHS were slow and unresponsive. The merits of HHS' reviews of Qamar's billing and the effectiveness of his own campaign are unclear. But some people familiar with Qamar's high-profile effort say OFA's apparent acceptance of his support may backfire on the group. "Clearly, this is one of the big problems with OFA, and the president being tied to a nonprofit," said Bill Allison, editorial director of the Washington-based Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for government transparency. "There's the perception that when people give, they're generally interested in getting something out of it, too. And the fact that (Qamar) is under review while making these donations raises all kinds of red flags, that if you give money you might get a different kind of justice than other people."[547]

August 29, 2013: How OFA Spent the August Recess

Juliet Eilperin reported in the Washington Post on August 29, 2013 that OFA held more than 2,000 rallies during the August recess pressing its case for issues including health care, immigration reform, climate change and gun control in a myriad of communities across the country. ”We built an organization that is powered by deeply-motivated Americans changing the conversation in Washington from the ground up, and this August was not only a validation of the OFA model of organizing, but it also showed once again that Americans are eager to end the pettiness in Washington and ready to make progress together,” Carson wrote in the memo, obtained by The Washington Post. OFA volunteers held over 225 Obamacare events, nearly 300 rallies urging action on climate change and close to 200 events aimed at enacting stricter background checks on gun sales. On global warming, the group is targeting the 135 members of Congress who publicly question the connection between human activity and climate change, delivering “climate denier awards” to lawmakers such as Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.). In social media OFA’s #WhatWillItTake hashtag trended nationally on twitter, and volunteers drove national coverage from Bloomberg, and local press clips from Nashua, NH to Santa Clarita, CA. "But is it changing lawmakers’ minds?" writes Eilperin. "So far none of the members of Congress the group has targeted has changed his or her public position on immigration reform, climate change, health care or gun control. The real test, however, will come once they return to Washington next month."[548]

August 30, 2013: OFA slams Sarah Palin over ‘Defund Obamacare’

Patrick Howley wrote on The Daily Caller on Augusut 30, 2013 that OFA slammed Sarah Palin for joining the “Defund Obamacare” campaign led by Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. "Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin just joined the ‘Defund Obamacare’ movement — a group of people, including 80 members of Congress, who are willing to sabotage the economy because they don’t like Obamacare. This is the kind of reckless nonsense President Obama is up against in trying to pass a smart budget that actually grows the economy for the middle class,” wrote Carson. "We’ll be calling out the radical members of Congress for their recklessness — and asking John Boehner to be a leader and stand up to his colleagues. Because if our representatives don’t know that there’s a price to pay for this kind of nonsense, it’s not ever going to stop."[549]

September 5, 2013: OFA stays Neutral on Syria Resolution

Juliet Eilperin reported in the Washington Post on September 5, 2013 that OFA has decided to stay neutral on the question of force against Syria. “Since the president’s announcement on Saturday we’ve definitely heard from our volunteers on this issue and glad to hear more feedback right now. The first thing I’d say is that it’s been pretty universal from folks that they are very glad he is taking this issue to Congress,” Carson said, according to a transcript of a regular call he holds with grassroots supporters. “We’ve certainly heard from all sides of this including people who are just looking for more information on the subject,” Carson continued. “What I definitely want you all to know is that OFA supports president Obama and the agenda that Americans voted for on November 6 but we don’t always actively organize around every issue, and the debate in Congress over the Syria vote is not one that OFA is planning on organizing around.”[550]

In contrast MoveOn.org, the liberal activist group that helped mobilize crucial support for President Obama during his 2008 presidential bid, has launched a major effort to defeat the congressional resolution authorizing the use of military force against Syria.[551]

September 19, 2013: OFA Invokes Navy Yard shooting for Gun Control Push

Jessica Chasmar reported in the Washington Times on September 19, 2013 that Organizing for Action sent out an email blast September 19 invoking the tragic shooting at Washington’s Navy Yard on Monday to urge for more gun control. “If you’re like me, you heard the news about the 12 Americans who died in D.C.’s Navy Yard shooting — and you had those familiar feelings of grief and frustration,” the email begins. “It’s almost unbelievable: More than 8,259 Americans have died due to gun violence since Newtown.” “We can pass legislation that helps prevent future gun violence — we just can’t back down now,” the letter pleads. “Add your name to recommit to the fight for gun violence prevention legislation today.” After signing your name, OFA then asks for donations to help the group push gun control legislation.[552]

September 19, 2013: National Journal Says Departure of Carson from Administration Has Complicated Relations with the Left

George E. Condon Jr. wrote in the National Journal on September 19, 2013 that progressives have recently fought Obama on military strikes against Syria, and it fought the man believed to be Obama’s first choice to head the Federal Reserve Board, Lawrence Summers. "The final score was Progressives 2; President 0," wrote Condon. The White House has also worked to keep the lines of communication open with progressive leaders but the departure from the White House of the highly regarded Jon Carson has complicated the relationship writes Condon. "Director of public engagement in the first term, Carson was the president’s point man with the Left, convening a regular Tuesday meeting with progressives. The weekly meetings have continued since he departed to become executive director of Organizing for Action, the chief outside lobbying group for the president’s agenda. The White House, however, has not handed the liaison role to a particular aide."[553]

"This week, Obama didn’t have much choice. He couldn’t help but hear the loud chorus of no’s from his friends," wrote Condon. "Going forward, how he handles his restive base will to a great degree determine whether his second term is successful."[554]

October 11, 2013: OFA Raises Nearly $8 million in Third Quarter

Matea Gold reported at the Washington Post on October 11, 2013 that OFA raised more than $7.7 million in the last quarter, bringing its total to nearly $21 million with more than 355,000 donors giving the group an average of $58.50 according to a voluntary disclosure that OFA released on October 11, 2013. More than $3 million has also come from 19 wealthy contributors who have contributed six-figure sums, such as Chicago media mogul Fred Eychaner, who gave $500,000, and architect and gay rights activist Jon Stryker, who donated $100,000. The group had to scale back its goal to raise $50 million this year after officials reversed their original plan to accept corporate donations amid sharp criticism.[555]

October 14, 2013: OFA Plans Large Rally at the Capitol

Reid J. Epstein reported at Politco on October 14, 2013 that OFA is holding a “Budget shutdown Day of Action event” at noon October 15, 2013 at the reflecting pool west of the Capitol. Carson tweeted urging supporters to "Come join OFA at an event tomorrow to say #EnoughAlready to the #TeaPartyShutdown.” This will mark OFA’s first attempt to stage a large rally at the Capitol.[556] Betsy Woodruff reported at National Review Online on October 15, 2013 that only 26 participants (by her count) started on the steps of the Capitol Building but quickly migrated to the West Lawn, when a man with a sign joking about cannibalism joined their ranks.[557]

November 4, 2013: Obama Speaks at OFA Event and Pushes Back on Obamacare Problems

Zeke J. Miller reported at Time Magazine on November 4, 2013 that President Barack Obama addressed a group of 200 health care activists at an OFA event and told them they must now work to implement the Affordable Care Act. “Let’s face it, a lot of us didn’t realize that passing the law was the easy part,” said Obama. He devoted a large part of his address to deflecting from the struggles facing the website, highlighting the parts of the law that are already benefiting Americans, including free preventive care and an end to considering pre-existing conditions when granting insurance. As for the website, “I’m taking responsibility to make sure it gets fixed, and it will be fixed,” Obama said.[558]

Obama also addressed criticism that over his promise that people who were happy with their insurance could keep it under the law, as thousands of Americans in the individual marketplace with plans that don’t meet the law’s standards are receiving cancellation notices. “What we said was you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed,” said Obama. Organizing for Action’s executive director Jon Carson referred to its members as Obama “army,” spreading news of the law to those eligible for its benefits. Last week the group released a video encouraging Obama supporters to make sure their family members sign up for the exchanges.[559]

November 4, 2013: President Obama Thanks Carson for his Work at OFA

The White House reported on November 4, 2013 that President Obama thanked Jon Carson by name for his work at the OFA event held at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C. "A couple other people I want to thank. Jon Carson, who does extraordinary work every day -- we love Jon. (Applause.) We miss him over at the White House, but he is in the right place because he’s one of the best organizers I have ever met -- of anything. And he is doing just great, great work with OFA."[560]

November 18, 2013: Obama Holds Virtual Conference Call with OFA Supporters

Justin Sink reported for "The Hill" on November 18, 2013 that President Obama held a virtual conference call hosted by Organizing for Action and told supporters that he needed their help battling against “a lot of misinformation” spread by political opponents about his signature healthcare legislation while admitting that problems with the ObamaCare website had put a damper on early enrollment efforts. “The good news is it’s getting better every single week,” Obama said. “I am confident that by the end of this month it is going to be functioning for the vast majority of folks.” Obama encouraged supporters to talk face-to-face with neighbors, friends, and family members about the law. He also suggested that proponents of ObamaCare should use holiday parties and family gatherings to encourage their loved ones to purchase insurance. Jon Carson announced that over 200,000 individuals had accessed the teleconference. "Despite the president’s assurances, his tone throughout his 12 minutes of remarks was noticeably subdued — an issue amplified by a scratchy phone connection that made it, at times, difficult to hear the president," wrote Sink. "Many reporters struggled initially to join the call because of buffering issues with the website, an ironic twist considering that a purpose of the teleconference was to downplay problems with HealthCare.gov."[561]

December 1, 2013: Carson Speaks at Roots Camp

Carson spoke at Roots Camp on December 1, 2013. RootsCamp is an open space "unconference" where the agenda is driven by the people who attend. Over the past seven years, RootsCamp has grown to become one of the most important events in progressive organizing.[562] Photo: new organizing Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Carson spoke at Roots Camp on December 1, 2013. RootsCamp is an open space "unconference" where the agenda is driven by the people who attend. Over the past seven years, RootsCamp has grown to become one of the most important events in progressive organizing.[563]

December 16, 2013: Carson Says OFA Has Big Role To Play in Local Media and in Training The Next Generation Of Progressive Organizers

Micah L. Sifry wrote at TechPresident on December 16, 2013 that OFA has decided to position itself in the progressive firmament, as one-part local media operation and one-part local training network. "Our main goal," says Sara El-Amine, OFA's organizing director, "is to change the conversation on issues." To that end, it has focused much of the year on "days of action" on particular issues like health care and the environment, all aimed at generating local news to influence specific Congress members and their constituents.[564]

OFA's strategy is designed to make the most of a much smaller hand. In Florida, Carson noted, "we have five staff; during the campaign we had 800." As a result, OFA, he said, can't do "mass action" like voter mobilization or registration, but it can do local actions and other press events aimed at getting on the local news. "At the chapter level we really focus on press," El-Amine said. "We hit members of Congress where they are listening. A phone call is like cutting down a tree in an empty forest. A local press clip is like cutting down a tree and everyone is watching." [565]

Carson says that OFA still had a big role to play in training the next generation of progressive organizers, and in keeping the extensive network of people who have been through an OFA or Obama campaign training involved. "We are still bringing new people into this movement," he declared, noting that they had received 10,000 applications for their spring organizing fellows program. To engage more of them, OFA is hiring 63 extra staff for three months, which will allow to train more than a thousand new fellows, just in time for them to go on the political campaign market in late spring 2014. Carson thinks this model of targeted local media work and ongoing organizer training is a smart way to build on OFA's most tangible assets, and I suspect he is right. "The president's brand will bring people into advocacy for a long time," he declared. "And the [OFA] alumni network will be there for a long time too."[566]

"The latest incarnation of OFA may be the smartest one," concludes Sifry. "It's not promising to pass the President's agenda or change the way Washington works; it's just trying to give its members something useful to do back home and pass on its organizing skills to the next generation. Someone else will have to figure out how to convert that into something bigger."[567]

December 17, 2013: Carson Makes Keynote Speech to Illinois' Tenth Congressional District Democrats

Stan Golovchuk reported on December 19, 2013 that the Illinois' Tenth Congressional District Democrats celebrated their 10th anniversary on December 17, 2013 with a keynote speech by Carson.[568] Tickets to the fundraiser were $65.[569]

December 20, 2013: OFA's 'Pajama Boy' Mocked

Chris Cillizza writes that 'Pajama Boy' was the latest swing and miss in efforts by Obama allies to persuade “young invincibles” who lack health insurance to sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Chris Cillizza reported in the Washington Post on December 20, 2013 that OFA's 'Pajama Boy' had the worst week in Washington. "It all started with a tweet," wrote Cillizza. "Organizing for Action, the grass-roots operation built to advocate for President Obama’s legislative agenda, tweeted a photo of a 20-something guy with hipster glasses, wearing a black-and-red-plaid onesie and cradling a mug. The text next to the image reads: 'Wear pajamas. Drink hot chocolate. Talk about getting health insurance. #GetTalking.'" Chris Christie kicked things off, tweeting a picture of himself working at a soup kitchen accompanied by this caption: “Get out of your pajamas. Put on an apron. And Get Volunteering.” Pajama Boy was the latest swing and miss in efforts by Obama allies to persuade “young invincibles” who lack health insurance to sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act. "Pajama Boy, for getting people laughing at you rather than talking about health insurance, you had the worst week in Washington. Congrats, or something."[570]

December 27, 2013: Carson Makes Holiday Fundraising Pitch for OFA

David Jackson reported on USA Today that Carson sent OFA members an e-mail on December 27, 2013 seeking contributions ahead of a December 31 reporting deadline and stressed the need to respond to criticism of the new health care law. "When we launched OFA, we knew we had our work cut out for us," reads Carson's email. "We knew that opponents were lined up to try to take us down -- to stop the progress we're fighting for. They probably even thought they would beat us. What people like you have proven all year long is that, when we each do our part, this grassroots movement can take on anyone. That's what makes fundraising deadlines so important. They're our chance to go on offense. We're facing a big deadline this Tuesday -- there are just a few days to become a 2013 founding member. Chip in $5 or more right now, before our critical fundraising deadline on December 31st. They can try to scare people away from getting health insurance. They can force a government shutdown when they don't get their way trying to derail Obamacare. They can be a roadblock on immigration reform, and fight tooth and nail against marriage equality everywhere they get the chance. They've done all of that, and more. But don't let anyone confuse that for actually winning these fights."[571]

January 16, 2014: OFA Sponsors Spring Fellowships

David Jackson reported in USA Today that OFA is assigning more than 60 veteran organizers to train more than 1,400 new volunteers in 22 states between February 5 and April 15 to promote items such as an immigration bill and Obama's health care law. New volunteers will be taught a variety of grassroots organizing activities, including outreach to potential supporters via local media outlets and social media tools, such as Twitter. OFA seeks to use many of techniques that helped fuel the Obama presidential campaigns of 2008 and 2012. "It's about making sure that voices on our side are heard, and people are held accountable," said Jon Carson, executive director of OFA. "We consider ourselves the best organizers out there." Carson said OFA volunteers -- including those being trained this spring -- will talk about health care success stories, and help people sign up for coverage with one of new exchanges created under the law. The political battle over health care "has gone from a theoretical debate to the real deal," Carson said.[572]

February 6, 2014: OFA Raffles Off a Chance to Meet President Obama

Justin Sink reported on "The Hill" that Organizing for America (OFA) is raffling off a trip to meet President Obama at its summit in Washington later this month, telling supporters who pledge to help enroll Americans in ObamaCare they could win the opportunity to meet the president. "Anyone who says they'll help — in big ways or small — before the March 31st enrollment deadline will be automatically entered for a free trip to Washington, D.C., to meet the president at our National Organizing Summit," says OFA Executive Director Jon Carson. When those interested in the contest submit their names and email addresses, they're prompted to donate money to the political advocacy group and sign up for volunteer hours promoting ObamaCare.[573]

February 23, 2014: Obama Tells OFA Volunteers They Are Doing 'God's Work'

Reid J. Epstein reported on February 25, 2014 that Obama told 300 volunteers at an Organizing for Action event in Washington on February 23, 2014 that " "the work you’re doing is God’s work" and urged his supporters to keep pushing to enroll as many people as possible in private health care plans under the Affordable Care Act before the March 31 deadline. “We’re going to make a big push these last few weeks,” said Obama. “I can talk, my team can talk here in Washington, but it’s not going to make as much of a difference as if you are out there making the case. The work you’re doing is God’s work. It is hard work.” Obama’s remarks contained a series of implicit and explicit shots at congressional Republicans and conservative interest groups that are funding anti-Obamacare campaigns. “You don’t have the prerogative to just go around and say no to everything,” Obama said. “You don’t have the prerogative to just be cynical. You don’t think that the country moves forward just on its own.”[574]

Obama devoted the bulk of his time to health care but also called on supporters to back his effort to raise the minimum wage and touched on his push to expand broadband Internet access to schools.[575]

February 23, 2014: OFA Announces 'Last Call' for Obamacare

OFA announced a campaign called “Last Call,” on February 23, 2014 which it called a “month-long effort to make sure Americans have the information they need to sign up for good coverage in the marketplace before the 2014 enrollment deadline.” “The last call is here, and it is our job to let everybody out there know that it is their last chance to get covered. March 31 is the day they need to get it done,” Carson said. “The No. 1 way to deliver this message is through amazing individual stories. … When we show them someone in their community, someone just like them who took the time, went to the website and found out it’s affordable.”[576]

February 25, 2014: Democrats Complain OFA is Missing in Action

Anna Palmer and Tarini Parti reported on Politico on February 25, 2014 that although Organizing for Action raised $26 million last year, officials say they aren’t planning to spend any of that cash to help Democratic candidates. Instead, they’re planning to pressure Congress to pass liberal bills, staying out of electoral politics altogether. "Some strategists and state party operatives are frustrated that even at a time when vulnerable Democrats are fighting to hang onto the Senate and incumbents are being bombarded with negative ads from conservative groups backed by brothers Charles and David Koch, OFA is not stepping up the air cover," write Palmer and Parti. "Democrats point to key battleground states like North Carolina, Arkansas and Louisiana as places where OFA’s resources are needed to combat mega-spending by conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity. OFA is organized under the tax code in the same way as the Koch brothers-backed group."[577]

OFA officials responds that the group was specifically organized as a nonprofit because the intention was never to get involved in elections. “We are an advocacy group. We are here to work on the agenda that Americans voted for in 2012,” said Carson. “I challenge you to find another group that brings the kind of scale we do to any issue.” Carson also pushed back on criticism that OFA is increasing the competition for Democratic dollars, saying it had, in fact, had the opposite effect. “We’re bringing new people into this, and the person who gets excited about what we’re doing about marriage equality in Hawaii and gives $50 and volunteers is more likely to give to someone else.”[578]

February 25, 2014: OFA Lays Out What It Has Done This Year

Anna Palmer and Tarini Parti reported on Politico on February 25, 2014 that OFA made a seven-figure national ad buy on the Affordable Care Act and a six-figure ad buy on the minimum wage — two issues it plans to keep pushing for this year — and also used its army of volunteers to call for immigration reform and for an end to the federal government shutdown in October. OFA has defended clean-energy measures in Colorado and California, advocated for same-sex marriage in Hawaii, Illinois and Oregon and pushed for minimum-wage-hike measures in New Jersey and Massachusetts. “I’ve had this conversation with folks before who want to blame us for not passing anything in the Senate on gun control, but does that mean then we get the credit for the immigration bill that passed with 68 votes in the Senate?” Carson said. “The energy is on our side. Even the Koch brothers have realized that. Did you see they tried to copy our State of the Union house party idea? They paid for people’s dinner. Here’s the headline: ‘Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity taking a page from OFA’s playbook, funds State of the Union watch parties in at least 13 states,’” Carson said. “Paying for everyone’s dinner is not the way to get people engaged.”[579]

OFA has 218 paid employees in 28 states and millions of volunteers, along with the Obama campaign’s coveted list of more than 30 million email addresses and digital operations it inherited. The group will train 1,700 fellows in 28 states on advocacy campaigning in the coming weeks.[580]

February 28 - March 11, 2014: Carson Acted Improperly Providing Access to Administration Officials

See section on:

March 21, 2014: OFA Trolls Tea Party with ‘Don’t Tread on My Obamacare’ Bumper Stickers

Katie McHugh reported on "The Daily Caller" on March 21, 2014 that sent out an email blast on March 21, 2014 touting a new bumper sticker mocking the tea party, titled “Don’t Tread on My Obamacare.”

Katie McHugh reported on "The Daily Caller" on March 21, 2014 that sent out an email blast on March 21, 2014 touting a new bumper sticker mocking the tea party, titled “Don’t Tread on My Obamacare.” “This is for everyone who’s tired of hearing the other side talk smack about the health care reform that is helping millions of Americans get affordable, quality care,” said Carson in OFA’s email release. “They’ve spent hundreds of millions to tear it down. We’ve worked hard to make sure they didn’t succeed. If you’re like me, you’re pretty proud of that. Wanna brag about it? Simply connect with OFA on Facebook today and tell us where to send your sticker.”[581]

March 31, 2014: Carson Says the Narrative Around Obamacare is Changing

The New York Times reported on March 31, 2014 that according to Carson, the narrative around Obamacare is chaning. "Now that six million Americans have signed up for coverage, you can feel the wind being taken out of our opponents’ sails.”[582]

April 26, 2014: Carson to Attend the Democracy Alliance “Spring Investment Conference” in Chicago

Lynn Sweet reported in the Chicago Sun Times on April 26, 2014 that the Democracy Alliance “Spring Investment Conference” will begin in Chicago at the Ritz-Carlton on April 27, 2014. The organization consists of elite megadonors who combine their enormous collective financial firepower for favored candidates and causes. According to the agenda members will discuss: whether Democrats are entering a new progressive era; climate change; gun control, and strategies for defending Obamacare in the states. OFA is using the meeting to showcase its operations, inviting the donors to a Wednesday cocktail party at its West Loop headquarters hosted by Obama 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina, OFA Chief Jon Carson and Julianna Smoot, who co-chairs the 2012 campaign.[583]

May 20, 2014: Philip Bump at The Washington Posts Asks 'How Long Will OFA Survive?'

Philip Bump writes in the Washington Post that it's not clear how much longer OFA will survive. "At the outset, the group jumped into the debate over tighter gun restrictions that collapsed when a Senate compromise on background checks was filibustered last April," writes Bump. "Leveraging the barackobama Twitter and Facebook accounts it leases from the president's still-active 2012 campaign, OFA switched into a defense of and organizing around the Affordable Care Act. While Gallup's long-term tracking poll of Obamacare suggests that attitudes toward the law didn't change much, an OFA flier obtained by The Post trumpets more than 3,000 community events in support of enrollment — though other groups' logos are included on the flier." [584]

The Post obtained an e-mail sent by the group's development director telling top donors that OFA would stop asking for large contributions after May 31. "The rationale is obvious," writes Bump. "With the approaching November elections, Democratic candidates and political PACs that are also seeking money from those donors would be increasingly frustrated if OFA were also asking for checks. OFA is not seeking out 'new major donors' after the end of the month, according to the e-mail, 'because we know that many of our financial supporters' focus will naturally shift to the midterm elections in which we do not participate.'"[585]

June 13. 2014: Fourteen Donors Have Given OFA $100,000 or More

The Sunlight Foundation reported on June 13, 2014 that sincethe beginning of the 2014 campaign cycle, 14 donors have given $100,000 or more to President Barack Obama's avowedly uncampaign committee, Organizing for America while another 26 have contributed $10,000 or more.[586][587]

Name City Affiliation Q1 2014 Total 2013 Combined Total
David Shaw New York, NY DE Shaw Research 500,000.00 500,000.00 1,000,000.00
Amy Goldman Fowler Rhinebeck, NY Sol Goldman Investments 250,000.00 500,000.00 750,000.00
Ryan Smith Salt Lake City, UT Variance Ventures 50,000.00 301,260.00 351,260.00
John Goldman Atherton, CA John and Marcia Goldman Foundation 100,000.00 125,000.00 225,000.00
Mark Gallogly New York, NY Centerbridge Partners 100,000.00 100,000.00 200,000.00
Kenneth Levine Boston, MA McAfee Inc 100,000.00 100,000.00 200,000.00
Jon Stryker New York, NY Jon Stryker Architecture 100,000.00 100,000.00 200,000.00
Laure Woods Portola Valley, CA 95,000.00 95,550.00 190,550.00
Barbara Grasseschi Healdsburg, CA Puma Springs Vineyards 50,000.00 115,000.00 165,000.00
William H. Freeman Nashville, TN Freeman Webb Co 25,000.00 110,000.00 135,000.00
Sandra McNeil-Rogers Morristown, NJ 100,000.00 25,100.00 125,100.00
Anthony P. Crabb Healdsburg, CA Puma Springs Vineyards 50,000.00 70,000.00 120,000.00
Wayne Jordan Oakland, CA Jordan Real Estate Investments 50,000.00 50,000.00 100,000.00
Marcia Goldman Atherton, CA John and Marcia Goldman Foundation 100,000.00 0 100,000.00

According to the Center, many of OFA’s donors, when checked against CRP data, turn out to be major political givers with long histories of backing Democratic candidates.

The Foundation also noted the lack of transparency in finding information about donors. "The information OFA chooses to provide about its contributors falls far short of what the Federal Election Commission requires of campaign committees. Among the key missing details: contributors’ employment information, which helps the public identify the interests behind a politician," says the study. "When we went through the above process two weeks ago, the link to the donor page produced an error message. After several emails to OFA , the information reappeared on the page. The episode illustrates the capriciousness of “voluntary” disclosure. What is given can easily be taken away."[588]

"While OFA is to be commended for making names of its contributors and the amounts they give public, the real question is whether voters should be satisfied with partial disclosure from a president who promised "an unprecedented level of openness." Shouldn’t the kind of details we’ve provided here be easily available to the voters in real time? A question for the president -- and the candidates who’d like to succeed him -- to answer."[589]

July 30, 2014: Philip Bump at The Washington Post Evaluates OFA and Finds It Ineffective

Philip Bump reported at the Washington Post on July 30, 2014 that if OFA's mandate is to bolster efforts to pass legislation then by the most important metric, OFA is largely ineffective. "The president introduced new restrictions on carbon pollution, but that was an executive action, not legislation. Immigration reform has stalled; there hasn't been a national minimum wage increase. All of these things are difficult, given the opposition the president faces from Republicans in Congress, but that's the point, right? Encourage people to take action in their communities? Bottom up change and all that?"[590]

"Since you have already written our 'near-obituary'," Carson said in his first email to Bump, "I thought it could be useful to make sure you get all the proper context of our work long before you have to write our actual obituary." We now have that context. Our minds have not been changed.[591]

July 30, 2014: Seth Mandel Writes What Conservatives Can Learn From OFA

Seth Mandel wrote in Commentary Magazine that Bump's articles show that there are "couple things conservatives can learn from OFA’s good days and bad." The instinct to organize and vote in or out policies and politicians according to your values and principles is the right way to change what needs changing writes Mandel. "Though we often criticize the means by which the Democrats drum up support from their base," writes Mandel, "rallying the base itself is something conservatives should get used to, and the Obama campaign was very good at it." Next "a lesson conservatives may have learned from the spectacular failure of the Romney campaign’s get out the vote program. It had many problems, but one was surely its overly hierarchical command structure." Finally "the existence of a Tea Party Caucus is a good example of how these organizations get bureaucratized and then stuck in place, ultimately working against their own best interests thanks to their obsession with their brand. But there’s still a lot the right can learn from an Obama campaign organization that now seems to be plodding off, arms outstretched, into the sunset."[592]

2014: Carson Acted Improperly Providing Access to Administration Officials

August 12, 2013: Background: Big Donors Could Draw Unwantered Attention to OFA

Gabriel Debenedetti reported on Reuters on August 12, 2013 that when cardiologist Asad Qamar gave $50,000 earlier this year to OFA it was one of the group's biggest single donations from the state of Florida. Qamar said he became involved in the outreach effort to promote Obama's policies partly so that he would have an opportunity to make his case that medical practices like his are suffering because contractors conducting the reviews for the HHS were slow and unresponsive. The merits of HHS' reviews of Qamar's billing and the effectiveness of his own campaign are unclear. But some people familiar with Qamar's high-profile effort say OFA's apparent acceptance of his support may backfire on the group. "Clearly, this is one of the big problems with OFA, and the president being tied to a nonprofit," said Bill Allison, editorial director of the Washington-based Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for government transparency. "There's the perception that when people give, they're generally interested in getting something out of it, too. And the fact that (Qamar) is under review while making these donations raises all kinds of red flags, that if you give money you might get a different kind of justice than other people."[593]

February 28, 2014: OFA Fires Fundraiser Who Diverted Felon's $100K Gift

Michael Isikoff reported at NBC News on February 28, 2014 that OFA had fired fundraiser Samantha Maltzman and returned a $100,000 check she collected from Dr. Joseph Piacentile, a New Jersey doctor who is seeking a presidential pardon after being convicted in 1991 for Medicare fraud and tax evasion. Maltzman had collected the check as part of an effort to raise money from big donors for an OFA dinner with President Barack Obama. She also took steps that could have kept the doctor’s cash secret, returning the check and asking Piacentile to write a new one to another political nonprofit that she described as “one of our partner organizations.” That group -- unlike OFA -- does not have a policy of voluntarily disclosing its donors. "We hold ourselves to the highest standards. In this case we fell short,” said OFA spokeswoman Katie Hogan. “While we did not accept the donation in question, and while we did not provide any benefit to anyone in exchange for a donation, we take seriously how we present ourselves as a grassroots policy advocacy organization. So we have taken the necessary steps to address this situation and will build on this experience to assure that it will not be repeated."[594]

On February 6, 2014 with the pardon application pending, Piacentile wrote a $100,000 check to Organizing for Action in response to an OFA fundraising appeal for the dinner and reception with Obama. “It is $25,000 per person to attend and for those that raise or write $100K, there will be small clutch with the president,” Maltzman wrote in a January 15 email to another New Jersey doctor and potential donor, Munr Kazmir, who was an acquaintance of Piacentile and invited him to be his guest at the dinner. The emails show that Maltzman returned Piacentile’s check to Kazmir –- after OFA reviewers spotted his past criminal problems, according to officials of the organization. But Malzman then asked him to have Piacentile make out a new check for the same amount -- this time payable to another “progressive” nonprofit, America Votes, that does not disclose its donors.[595]

February 28, 2014: Carson Set Up Meeting for Munr Kazmir With Chief of Staff in the White House Office of Public Engagement

Michael Isikoff reported at NBC News on February 28, 2014 that Munr Kazmir, a fundraiser who collects political contributions from multiple individuals, says he reached out to OFA Executive Director Jon Carson in hopes of getting meetings with White House and administration officials who might be able to help him in his legal dispute with the Overseas Private Insurance Corp., a federal agency, for missing payments on a $2.5 million loan Kazmir received to start an American school in Lahore, Pakistan. “Look, I’m not asking or taking taxpayer money,” Kazmir recalled telling Carson. “ I’m going to pay every single penny.” Carson responded by saying he would introduce him a White House official “to see what can be done, “ Kazmir said. Emails show Carson did arrange a meeting for Kazmir with Yohannes Abraham, chief of staff in the White House Office of Public Engagement, at a coffee shop near the White House on January 28, 2014. A White House official confirmed the meeting, saying that Abraham felt “uncomfortable” and “immediately extricated himself.” Kazmir acknowledged that Abraham later got back to him and told him he was unable to help. Asked about Carson’s role in setting up the meeting for Kazmir, OFA spokeswoman Katie Hogan said that under the group’s policies, “No one is or has ever been authorized to offer opportunities to meet with administration principals in exchange for a donation to the organization.”[596]

March 3, 2014: Carson Says He Acted Improperly Providing Access to Administration Officials

Michael Isikoff reported on NBC News on March 3, 2014 that OFA Executive Director Jon Carson says he acted improperly in helping to provide a prospective $100,000 donor with access to two Obama administration officials. “I fell short in meeting my responsibility as the executive director of OFA to assure that no question about our standards could even be reasonably raised," said Carson. "We have strengthened our policies to prevent an issue like this from ever reoccurring.” In an interview with NBC News, Munr Kazmir said he believed OFA fundraiser Samantha Maltzman was being unfairly blamed because, he said, Carson was directly involved in soliciting the cash that came from Dr. Piacentile. “They are throwing her under the bus,” said Kazmir. “They are covering up, Carson knew everything.” Carson did not respond to requests for comment and OFA officials did not make him available for an interview. But OFA officials rejected the idea that anybody from the group was pressuring Kazmir to donate. “There is no indication that Jon actually tried to rig the game,” said one OFA official. “He did not become an advocate for Kazmir.” Still, the official said, “clearly” his actions were “not consistent with our policy” of forbidding offering donors access to government officials.[597]

Kazmir had sought the meeting to seek relief from a court judgment obtained by the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) for his failure to make payments on a $2.5 million loan to start an American school in Lahore, Pakistan. “Dr. Kazmir is on his way to Washington and he wonders if he might be able to meet someone from the White House,” Kazmir’s secretary wrote to Carson on January 29, 2014. “Sure, can you meet at the Caribou Coffee at 17th and Pennsylvania,” Carson wrote later that day, “Person is Yohannes Abraham -- he has the background info. Should be a good sounding board on this.” Abraham had previously worked for Carson, who had served as director of the White House office where Abraham worked.[598]

March 3, 2014: OFA Will No Longer Divert Gifts to Allied Groups

Michael Isikoff reported on NBC News on March 3, 2014 that OFA officials, who asked not to be identified so they could speak candidly, acknowledged that on two previous occasions the group had steered questionable donations that it could not accept under the organization’s policies to other allied tax-exempt groups. Last July, the officials said, it received a $250,000 donation from a donor who had a previous “legal problem” with the government, the officials said. OFA returned the check and recommended that the funds be sent to other groups. In another case in January, OFA collected a $75,000 check from a corporation that, at OFA’s request, was made payable to another progressive group. Those groups also do not have policies of publicly disclosing their contributors. While OFA officials declined to identify the groups or the donors, OFA chairman Jim Messina —Obama’s former campaign manager—and Carson told staff Sunday in an internal memo provided to NBC News that the practice will now be strictly banned. Under the new policy, “OFA may not offer or accept an invitation to facilitate in any way the making of such donations,” the memo states.[599]

March 5, 2014: David Firestone writes in NYT that OFA Should Refuse Unlimited Donations

David Firestone wrote in the NYT on March 5, 2014 that revelations from NBC News that OFA has been "soliciting money from people who are entangled in disputes with the administration, or who want something out of the government" is exactly what a New York Times editorial last year warned against when it urged the group to get out of the unlimited-donations business. "It’s good to know that O.F.A. has changed its policies and is repentant after being caught. But those changes are inadequate. As long as the group exists, donors can still provide it with huge checks and know that the administration will be aware of them. It’s not necessary to have a face-to-face meeting to curry favor using big money," wrote Firestone. "If the Obama administration really wants to be associated with a social welfare group, there is only one way to avoid the appearance of impropriety: turn it into a truly grassroots organization by refusing unlimited donations and imposing a strict cap on them — say, in the low three figures. Otherwise, the group will be a continuing source of scandal."[600]

March 11, 2014: Democracy 21 Demands Obama Shut Down OFA

Michael Isikoff reported on NBC News on March 11, 2014 that Democracy 21, a non-partisan group that advocates for campaign reform, called on President Obama to shut down or dissociate himself from Organizing for Action, charging that recent disclosures by NBC News about its fundraising show the organization is “a direct threat to the integrity of your presidency.” Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, said in a letter to the president that the recent disclosures suggest that Organizing for Action or OFA “has been selling direct access to you and to your White House in return for huge contributions.” The letter focuses in part on a meeting that Jon Carson, the executive director of OFA, arranged with a White House official for a New Jersey businessman who was seeking help for a legal dispute he was having with a federal agency over a $2.5 million loan for a school in Pakistan.[601][602][603]

Asked for comment, OFA spokeswoman Katie Hogan said in an email that "With over 400,000 contributors, an average contribution of under $40, and more than 4.4 million action takers, OFA is a leading force of grassroots activism in communities working to see through the agenda the American people voted for in 2012." The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. OFA officials said last week the email setting the six-figure price for the presidential “clutch” -- or handshake -- with the president did not represent the group’s policy and was the main reason Maltzman had been fired.[604]

Personal

Carson met his wife, Rebecca, while working on the Gore campaign in 2000[605] and they became engaged when they went to Honduras in the Peace Corps in 2004.[606][607] The Carsons have two children, Noah and Lily.[608][609] Their oldest, Noah, was born in June, 2008.[610] Carson says many federal agencies are embracing flexible work schedules, deskless offices and more common work spaces. "“That’s a place where the government is going to be a leader, and as a father of two young kids with a wife who has a job even busier than mine, I am all for as much as we can do on that front."[611]

According to Samuel P. Jacobs writing in the Chicago Tribune, Carson is described as a "soft-spoken political operative" and a survey of colleagues and even political rivals tends to describe Carson in one word as "nice," not necessarily the most desirable trait in politics today according to Jacobs.[612]

After Carson joined the White House, colleagues there said he was ribbed for ill-fitting suits and speaking Spanish with the prairie twang of his native Wisconsin.[613]

Carson enjoys trout fishing and "grew up on a farm in western Wisconsin that was a stone's throw from Coon Creek, one of the best trout fishing spots in the Midwest."[614] Carson also enjoys deer hunting.[615]

Carson's parents, Glenn and Carol Carson, were Carson's guests at the second inauguration of Barack Obama in 2013 and attended the event with seats on the Capital Lawn. “It was just moving,” said the elder Carson adding that he and his wife also attended the inaugural ball, held at the Washington, D.C. Convention Center. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that Carol and I will never forget."[616]

Future Research

External Links

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  417. Roll Call. "Obama Volunteers Chart Future of Grass-Roots Group" by Janie Lorber. January 20, 2013.
  418. LA Times. "Obama advisors lay out plan for new advocacy group" by Matea Gold. January 20, 2013.
  419. San Diego Free Press. "Obama’s Organizing for Action: A Boost for Progressives" by Randy Shaw. January 23, 2013.
  420. The Atlantic. "Obama's Permanent Campaign: Can He Use His Reelection Playbook to Change Washington?" by Molly Ball. January 29, 2013.
  421. Associated Press "New nonprofit to promote Obama agenda" by Ken Thomas. January 18, 2013.
  422. Non-Profit Quarterly. "Who Does Organizing for Action Work For?" by Rick Cohen. January 23, 2013.
  423. Politico. "Barack Obama’s new ‘grass-roots’ group isn't quite" by Kennerth P. Vogel, Tarini Parti, and Byron Tau. January 25, 2013.
  424. San Francisco Chronicle. "Obama's troubling fundraising" by John Diaz. January 27, 2013.
  425. USA Today. "Watchdogs, conservatives rap Obama's new advocacy group" by Fredreka Schouten. January 23, 2013.
  426. NY Times. "Obama’s Backers Seek Big Donors to Press Agenda" by Nicholas Confessore. February 22. 2013.
  427. Washington Times. "No open door: White House denies selling access to President Obama to wealthy supporters" by Dave Boyer. February 25, 2013.
  428. Roll Call. "Obama Volunteers Chart Future of Grass-Roots Group" by Janie Lorber. January 20, 2013.
  429. Non-Profit Quarterly. "Who Does Organizing for Action Work For?" by Rick Cohen. January 23, 2013.
  430. Politico. "Barack Obama’s new ‘grass-roots’ group isn't quite" by Kennerth P. Vogel, Tarini Parti, and Byron Tau. January 25, 2013.
  431. Free Beacon. "Organizing for Access" by Alana Goodman. February 12, 2013.
  432. Washington Post. "Obama’s new political group to lure unlimited donations" by Tom Hamburger. February 23, 2013.
  433. National Journal. "Obama's Liberal Goals Collide With 2014 Campaign Map" by Beth Reinhard. March 12, 2013.
  434. National Journal. "Obama's Liberal Goals Collide With 2014 Campaign Map" by Beth Reinhard. March 12, 2013.
  435. Associated Press "New nonprofit to promote Obama agenda" by Ken Thomas. January 18, 2013.
  436. LA Times. "Seeking to harness Obama's campaign resources for a second term" by Matea Gold. January 17, 2013.
  437. Time Magazine. "Democrats Now Serve Two Masters: DNC and Organizing for Action" by Zeke J. Miller. April 1, 2013.
  438. The Atlantic. "Obama's Permanent Campaign: Can He Use His Reelection Playbook to Change Washington?" by Molly Ball. January 29, 2013.
  439. Politico. "Barack Obama’s new ‘grass-roots’ group isn't quite" by Kennerth P. Vogel, Tarini Parti, and Byron Tau. January 25, 2013.
  440. USA Today. "Obama launches advocacy group to push agenda" by Fredreka Schouten. January 18, 2013.
  441. The Atlantic. "How Organizing for Action Plans to Keep Obama's Foot Soldiers Enlisted" by Nancy Scola. January 22, 2013.
  442. Politico. "Barack Obama’s new ‘grass-roots’ group isn't quite" by Kennerth P. Vogel, Tarini Parti, and Byron Tau. January 25, 2013.
  443. The Atlantic. "How Organizing for Action Plans to Keep Obama's Foot Soldiers Enlisted" by Nancy Scola. January 22, 2013.
  444. The Atlantic. "How Organizing for Action Plans to Keep Obama's Foot Soldiers Enlisted" by Nancy Scola. January 22, 2013.
  445. Politico. "Obama campaign alums shift to advocacy" by Byron Tau. January 20, 2013.
  446. Associated Press. "Obama's campaign looks to legislative fights" by Ken Thomas. January 20, 2013.
  447. LA Times. "Obama advisors lay out plan for new advocacy group" by Matea Gold. January 20, 2013.
  448. Associated Press. "Obama's campaign looks to legislative fights" by Ken Thomas. January 20, 2013.
  449. The Moderate Voice. "Email Formally Tries to Convert Obama’s Campaign to Organizing for Action" by Joe Gandelman. January 20, 2013.
  450. The Hill. "Unions, Hollywood open to bankrolling Obama’s advocacy arm" by Kevin Bogardus. January 30, 2012.
  451. Politico. "Secret donors back new Obamacare push" by Kenneth Vogel and Jennifer Haberkorn. February 1, 2013.
  452. Washinton Post. "White House, Obama supporters to launch efforts to promote State of the Union proposals" by Julie Pace. February 11, 2013.
  453. Washinton Post. "White House, Obama supporters to launch efforts to promote State of the Union proposals" by Julie Pace. February 11, 2013.
  454. The Hill. "Obama to hold call with campaign supporters after State of the Union" by Justine Sink. February 11, 2013.
  455. Hollywood Reporter. "Obama's Top Campaign Deputies Mingle in L.A. at State of the Union Viewing Party (Exclusive)" by Tina Daunt. February 13, 2013.
  456. LA Times. "Obama advocacy group OFA solicits high-dollar bundlers for support" by Matea Gold. February 14, 2013.
  457. Roll Call. "Organizing for America Plans 'National Day of Action' to Mobilize Grass Roots on Guns" by Janie Lorber. February 13, 2013.
  458. Roll Call. "Organizing for America Plans 'National Day of Action' to Mobilize Grass Roots on Guns" by Janie Lorber. February 13, 2013.
  459. Weekly Standard. "Organizing for Action Continues to Run Afoul of IRS" by Jeryl Bier. February 18, 2013.
  460. LA Times. "Pro-Obama group says it's not partisan, but has wide latitude" by Matea Gold. February 7, 2013.
  461. LA Times. "Organizing for Action targets GOP lawmakers in first ad buy" by Matea Gold. February 21, 2013.
  462. Washington Post. "Organizing for Action ads pressure GOP lawmakers on gun-buyer background checks" by Philip Rucker. February 22, 2013.
  463. LA Times. "Pro-Obama group wades into budget standoff" by Matea Gold. February 27, 2013.
  464. Your Houston News. "Stockman requests White House records after response to Obama anti-gun campaign" March 4, 2013.
  465. NY Times. "Obama’s Backers Seek Big Donors to Press Agenda" by Nicholas Confessore. February 22. 2013.
  466. NY Times. "Obama’s Backers Seek Big Donors to Press Agenda" by Nicholas Confessore. February 22. 2013.
  467. Chicago Tribune. "With new group, Obama team seeks answer to Karl Rove" by Samuel P. Jacobs. March 12, 2013.
  468. Washington Times. "No open door: White House denies selling access to President Obama to wealthy supporters" by Dave Boyer. February 25, 2013.
  469. LA Times. "Pro-Obama group wades into budget standoff" by Matea Gold. February 27, 2013.
  470. LA Times. "Pro-Obama group wades into budget standoff" by Matea Gold. February 27, 2013.
  471. CNN. "Why we're raising money to support Obama agenda" by Jim Messina. March 7, 2013.
  472. Washington Free Beacon. "Secret Obama Group Won’t Disclose Secret Meeting Location" by Lachlan Markay. March 7, 2013.
  473. National Journal. "Obama's Liberal Goals Collide With 2014 Campaign Map" by Beth Reinhard. March 12, 2013.
  474. USA Today. "Organizing for Action still waiting for big Democratic donors" by Fredreka Schouten. March 8, 2013.
  475. Bloomberg. "Democratic Donors Skip Obama Dinner Seeking New Donations" by Lisa Lerer and Julie Bykowicz. March 12, 2013.
  476. USA Today. "OFA not a partisan organization: Opposing view" by Jon Carson. March 12, 2013.
  477. LA Times. "Obama meets with new advocacy group" by Matea Gold. March 13, 2013.
  478. LA Times. "Obama meets with new advocacy group" by Matea Gold. March 13, 2013.
  479. NY Times. "Pro-Obama Group Enters Immigration Fray" by Michael D. Shear. March 25, 2013.
  480. NY Times. "Pro-Obama Group Enters Immigration Fray" by Michael D. Shear. March 25, 2013.
  481. Politico. "OFA joins New York campaign finance reform fight" by Maggie Haberman. March 26, 2013.
  482. New York Times. "New Ads to Press Albany on Campaign Financing" by Thomas Kaplan. March 31, 2013.
  483. Politico. "OFA "Staring Down" Self-Imposed Fundraising Deadline" by Byron Tau and Anna Palmer. March 27, 2013.
  484. Washington Examiner. "Obama, Pelosi, McAuliffe issue Easter Sunday fundraising appeals" by Paul Bedard. April 1, 2013.
  485. Politico. "Obama's top-down grassroots army" by Reid Epstein. April 6, 2013.
  486. Politico. "Obama's top-down grassroots army" by Reid Epstein. April 6, 2013.
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  488. Politico. "Obama's top-down grassroots army" by Reid Epstein. April 6, 2013.
  489. BuzzFeed Politics. "Obama Takes Control In The Second Ter" by Evan McMorris-Santoro and Ben Smith. April 7, 2013.
  490. Politoco. "What OFA thinks about Obama's budget" by Reid J. Epstein. April 10, 2013.
  491. Businessweek. "Obama’s Budget Rescues the Pentagon" by Joshua Green. April 10, 2013.
  492. Reuters. "Independent Obama group raises $4.8 million in first quarter" by Gabriel Debenedetti. April 12, 2013.
  493. NY Times. "Group Raising Funds for Obama’s Agenda Releases Numbers" by Michael D. Shear. April 12, 2013.
  494. LA Times. "Obama advocacy group collects mostly from small donors" by Matea Gold. April 12, 2013.
  495. LA Times. "Rich liberal donors throw weight behind Obama agenda" by Matea Gold. May 4, 2013.
  496. LA Times. "Pro-Obama group will go after Democrats on guns" by Matea Gold. April 18, 2013.
  497. Washington Post. "Gun-control backers vow to be more energetic in wake of Senate defeat" by Philip Rucker. April 18, 2013.
  498. LA Times. "Pro-Obama group will go after Democrats on guns" by Matea Gold. April 18, 2013.
  499. Washington Post. "Gun-control backers vow to be more energetic in wake of Senate defeat" by Philip Rucker. April 18, 2013.
  500. The Hill. "Organizing for Action shrugs off dangers of hitting Senate Dems on gun control" by Alexandra Jaffe. April 24, 2013.
  501. The Hill. "Organizing for Action attacks GOP on climate change" by Zack Colman. April 25, 2013.
  502. Politico. "OFA kicks off climate-change push" by Donovan Slack. April 25, 2013.
  503. Politico. "OFA's Carson to host small-dollar New York fundraiser" by Reid J. Epstein. May 1, 2013.
  504. The Liberty NYC.
  505. LA Times. "Rich liberal donors throw weight behind Obama agenda" by Matea Gold. May 4, 2013.
  506. LA Times. "Rich liberal donors throw weight behind Obama agenda" by Matea Gold. May 4, 2013.
  507. Politico. "OFA to add more paid organizers" by Reid J. Epstein. May 6, 2013.
  508. CNN. "First on CNN: OFA collects 1.4 million signatures for gun control" May 7, 2013.
  509. ABC News. "The Note: S.C.’s Very Strange House Special" by Devin Dwyer. May 7, 2013.
  510. CNN Politics. "Obama-aligned group says gun fight isn't over" by Kevin Liptak. May 6, 2013.
  511. CNN. "First on CNN: OFA collects 1.4 million signatures for gun control" May 7, 2013.
  512. Free Beacon. "Nonpartisan Org Gearing Up for Partisan Elections" by Alana Goodman. May 7, 2014.
  513. Washington Post. "Organizing for Action struggles to move the needle on Obama’s agenda" by Juliet Eilperin. May 11, 2013.
  514. Washington Post. Letter to Jim Messine from Mike Wenstrup, Chair, Alaska Democratic Party. May 8, 2013.
  515. Washington Post. "Organizing for Action struggles to move the needle on Obama’s agenda" by Juliet Eilperin. May 11, 2013.
  516. Christian Science Monitor. "Why Obama agenda group faces pushback from some Democrats" by Linda Feldmann. May 15, 2013.
  517. Huffington Post. "OFA Refuses To Push On Keystone" by Ryan Grim and Lucia Graves. May 16, 2013.
  518. Businessweek. "Obama’s Keystone Silence Is Driving Green-Activists Away" by Lisa Lerer and Julie Bykowicz. June 17, 2013.
  519. Businessweek. "Obama’s Keystone Silence Is Driving Green-Activists Away" by Lisa Lerer and Julie Bykowicz. June 17, 2013.
  520. Businessweek. "Obama’s Keystone Silence Is Driving Green-Activists Away" by Lisa Lerer and Julie Bykowicz. June 17, 2013.
  521. Washington Post. "Obama donors compare Keystone decision to Lincoln’s outlawing of slavery" by Juliet Eilperin. May 10, 2013.
  522. Washington Post. "Copy of Letter to President Obama lobbying against Keystone Pipeline. May 9, 2013.
  523. Herald Online. "Partnership for a New American Economy, Organizing for Action, and Republicans for Immigration Reform Kick Off the Largest-Ever Virtual March on Washington" May 22, 2013.
  524. Politico. "Obama group holding summits to discuss future" by Donovan Slack. May 30, 2013.
  525. USA Today. "Pro-Obama group to organize state chapters" by David Jackson. May 30, 2013.
  526. Politico. "OFA plans summer push on immigration, health care" by Donovan Slack. June 13, 2013.
  527. Politico. "OFA plans summer push on immigration, health care" by Donovan Slack. June 13, 2013.
  528. The Hill. "Pro-Obama advocacy group launches first ad touting healthcare law" by Justin Sink. June 17, 2013.
  529. Huffington Post. "OFA Pressed On Keystone XL Silence By Progressive Activists At Netroots Nation" by Amanda Terkel. June 20, 2013.
  530. Huffington Post. "OFA Pressed On Keystone XL Silence By Progressive Activists At Netroots Nation" by Amanda Terkel. June 20, 2013.
  531. Washington Post. "Conservative donors eye independent groups with new skepticism" by Matea Gold. June 22, 2013.
  532. Huffington Post. "DOMA: Supreme Court Rulings On Defense Of Marriage Act, Prop 8 Irk Haters" by Cavan Sieczkowski. June 26, 2013.
  533. Washington Post. "White House ramps up effort to sell Obamacare" by Juliet Eilperin. July 9, 2013.
  534. Washington Post. "OFA ad highlights Obamacare’s ban on lifetime caps" by Aaron Blake. July 8, 2013.
  535. Washington Times. "Obama to campaign base: Get going pushing my agenda" by Dave Boyer. July 22, 2013.
  536. Washington Post. "Obama to address Organizing for Action summit Monday" by Matea Gold. July 22, 2013.
  537. Washington Times. "Obama to campaign base: Get going pushing my agenda" by Dave Boyer. July 22, 2013.
  538. Washington Post. "Obama rallies supporters to kick-start his second-term agenda" by Matea Gold. July 22, 2013.
  539. Washington Post. "OFA embraces tea party blueprint for August push" by Edward-Isaac Dovere. July 23, 2013.
  540. Washington Post. "OFA embraces tea party blueprint for August push" by Edward-Isaac Dovere. July 23, 2013.
  541. Organizing for Action Web Site. "OFA launches centralized Action August website" by Edward-Isaac Dovere. July 29, 2013.
  542. NewsBusters. "What 'Pivot'? OFA's 'Action August' Has No Events Tied to Economy" by Tom Blumer. July 29, 2013.
  543. Politico. "Obamacare message war goes local" by Kyle Cheny. August 4, 2013.
  544. Newsbusters. "Politico Changes Headline About Poor Attendance at ObamaCare Event" by Noel Sheppard. August 5, 2013.
  545. Politico. "Organizing for Action pitches help for Democrats" by Reid J. Epstein. August 6, 2013.
  546. Huffington Post. "Organizing For Action Restates It Won't Get Involved In Electoral Politics" by Sam Stein. August 7, 2013.
  547. Reuters. "Big donor to group promoting Obamacare launches his own campaign" by Gabriel Debenedetti. August 12, 2013.
  548. Washington Post. "How Organizing For Action spent the August recess, by the numbers" by Juliet Eilperin. August 29, 2013.
  549. The Daily Caller. "OFA slams Sarah Palin over ‘Defund Obamacare’" by Patrick Howley. August 30, 2013.
  550. Washington Post. "MoveOn.org lobbies against Syria resolution, while OFA stays neutral" by Juliet Eilperin. September 5, 2013.
  551. Washington Post. "MoveOn.org lobbies against Syria resolution, while OFA stays neutral" by Juliet Eilperin. September 5, 2013.
  552. Washington Times. "Obama fundraising group invokes Navy Yard shooting for gun control push" by Jessica Chasmar. September 19, 2013.
  553. National Journal. "No Horse Heads in the Bed" by George E. Condon Jr. September 19, 2013.
  554. National Journal. "No Horse Heads in the Bed" by George E. Condon Jr. September 19, 2013.
  555. Washington Post. "Organizing for Action raises nearly $8 million in third quarter" by Matea Gold. October 11, 2013.
  556. Politico. "OFA plans Tuesday rally at Capitol" by Reid J. Epstein. October 15, 2013.
  557. National Review Online. "Tiny OFA Anti-Tea-Party Rally Upstaged By Guy With Cannibalism Sign, Guy Playing Guitar In Underwear" by Betsy Woodruff. October 15, 2013.
  558. Time Magazine. "Obama Fighting ‘One More Campaign’ for Obamacare" by Zeke J. Miller. November 4, 2013.
  559. Time Magazine. "Obama Fighting ‘One More Campaign’ for Obamacare" by Zeke J. Miller. November 4, 2013.
  560. The White House. "REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT OFA EVENT" November 4, 2013.
  561. The Hill. "Obama tells supporters to fight ObamaCare ‘misinformation’" by Justin Sink. November 18, 2013.
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  568. Arlington Heights Patch. "Schneider's and Obama's Early Fans Celebrate 10th Anniversary" by Stan Golovchuk. December 19, 2013.
  569. Tenth Dems. "Jon Carson to Keynote Tenth Dems Annual Fundraiser and 10th Anniversary Celebration" December 17, 2013.
  570. Washington Post. "Who had the worst week in Washington? Pajama Boy" by Chris Cillizza. December 20, 2013.
  571. USA Today. "Pro-Obama group does holiday fundraising" by David Jackson. December 27, 2013.
  572. USA Today. "Pro-Obama group sponsors spring fellowships" by David Jackson. January 16, 2014.
  573. The Hill. "ObamaCare volunteers could win chance to meet the man himself" by Justin Sink. February 5, 204.
  574. Politico. "Obama: OFA volunteers doing ‘God’s work’" by Reid J. Epstein. February 25, 2014.
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  579. Politico. "Democrats complain Organizing for Action is MIA" by Anna Palmer and Tarini Parti. February 25, 2014.
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  582. New York Times. "Health Care Signups Reach Frenzy in Final Day to Enroll" by Robert Pear. March 31, 2014.
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  614. Council on Environmental Quality Blog. "Gone Fishing" Posted by Jon Carson on April 28, 2010
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  616. LaCross Tribune. "Chaseburg native Jonathan Carson leaving Washington D.C.; still on Obama’s staff" by Dorothy Jasperson-Robson. February 6, 2013.

About the Author

Hugh Pickens

Hugh Pickens (Po-Hi '67) is a physicist who has explored for oil in the Amazon jungle, crossed the empty quarter of Saudi Arabia, and built satellite control stations for Goddard Space Flight Center all over the world. Retired in 1999, Pickens and his wife moved from Baltimore back to his hometown of Ponca City, Oklahoma in 2005 where he cultivates his square foot garden, mows nine acres of lawn, writes about local history and photographs events at the Poncan Theatre and Ponca Playhouse.

Since 2001 Pickens has edited and published “Peace Corps Online,” serving over one million monthly pageviews. His other writing includes contributing over 1,500 stories to “Slashdot: News for Nerds,” and articles for Wikipedia, “Ponca City, We Love You”, and Peace Corps Worldwide.

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Copyright

The material in this article is licensed under under the Creative Commons under an Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Except for short, fair use excerpts, the material on this article cannot be used for commercial purposes without permission of Hugh Pickens. Attribution for use of any material from this article must be provided to Hugh Pickens and if used on the web a link must be provided to http://hughpickens.com.

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