Six years ago this month, then-Sen. Barack Obama launched his first presidential campaign in Springfield, Ill. He warned thousands of his adoring followers about "the cynics, and the lobbyists and the special interests who've turned our government into a game only they can afford to play." He went on: "They write the checks, and you get stuck with the bills. They get the access, while you get to write a letter. They think they own this government, but we're here today to take it back."
Fast-forward to this past Saturday, when the New York Times reported that the re-elected President Obama's top political advisers are all fanning out across the country with a simple message for those same lobbyists and special interests: Obama is for sale.
Of course, nothing is ever quite that blatant in Washington, but here is how the pitch goes: Obama can not enact his second-term agenda without significant help from outside groups. Those outside groups can channel resources through Obama's old presidential re-election apparatus, which has now been rechristened "Organizing for America," an IRS 501(c)4 tax-exempt "social welfare" organization.
The sole purpose of OFA will be to advance Obama's policy agenda, and to that end, Obama will meet personally with OFA's national advisory board in the White House at least four times a year. And, here is the money part: You too can become a member of the national advisory board for the bargain basement price of just $500,000. OFA hopes to become "a powerhouse national advocacy network" by selling such slots to wealthy donors and raising $50,000,000 this year.
If that isn't selling access, then we don't know what is. And it's also a clear case of hypocrisy -- of Obama doing precisely the thing for which he harshly criticized others, and with which he formed the very core of his political identity as a candidate of "change."
Pressed to defend Obama's hypocrisy, White House press secretary jay Carney insisted that OFA is an "independent organization" and that Obama meets with many independent organizations like environmentalists and labor unions all the time.
But none of those organizations exist for the sole stated purpose of, in Carney's own words, "rallying support for the president's policy agenda." None of those organizations used to be Obama's presidential campaign. And none of those organization can officially speak for the president, as OFA does through the authenticated @BarackObama Twitter account. No one who ponies up $500,000 to OFA is under any illusion that OFA would ever do anything the White House did not want it to.
Not that OFA's wealthy donors would completely control Obama. Even $500,000 is not enough to change Obama's mind about, say, the desirability of solar panel subsidies. But if you were a wealthy donor who owned a solar panel business, and you wanted federal loans to help get your business started, then a $500,000 check to OFA is a great investment.
That is pretty much what Obama-bundler billionaire George Kaiser did when he successfully lobbied the White House for billions in federally guaranteed loans for Solyndra. And, just as Obama predicted in 2007, after Kaiser wrote his checks, taxpayers got "stuck with the bills" when Solyndra went bankrupt in 2011.
If Obama wants to know one of the key reasons why American trust in the federal government is near an all-time low, he need only look in the mirror.