Obama campaign veteran Jim Messina is heading up Organizing for Action, a non-profit using campaign tactics to promote the President’s agenda. As a 501(c) 4, OFA can accept unlimited donations. Messina has promised that the organization wouldn’t accept any contributions from “corporations or lobbyists.” Information released Friday, however, reveals that OFA accepted a large in-kind contribution from the National Education Association, one of the nation’s largest lobbying powerhouses.
Since is was organized earlier this year, OFA has accepted office space from the NEA, the largest teachers’ union. OFA has been operating out of the 4th floor of NEA headquarters in Washington, DC, ahead of an eventual move to Chicago. NEA donated the space to OFA, valuing the in-kind contribution at just over $15,000. Legally, an in-kind contribution is the same as an outright donation.
The NEA spent $133 million on lobbying and contributions to advocacy groups in 2010-2011, the last year for which full figures are available. That is considerably more than some entire industry sectors. Every dollar of that spending was intended to influence policy decisions favorable to the union.
Saying one will not take contributions from “lobbyists”, but accept gifts from the NEA is a distinction without a difference.