Obama’s once-vaunted Organizing for America silent in tax cut debate

Jon Ward Contributor
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One group has been conspicuously quiet during the debate over whether to extend all or some of the Bush tax cuts: Organizing for America.

While groups such as the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and MoveOn.org have rallied the grassroots to call on President Obama to fight against a compromise extending current tax rates for high-end earners, OFA has been largely silent.

A look at OFA’s website Friday showed no mention of the debate. On Monday, a vote in the Senate Saturday had given OFA something to talk about, as they railed against Republicans “demanding tax cuts for millionaires or no tax cuts at all.”

But there has been no agitation or organizing similar to other groups like PCCC and MoveOn. Those groups have run TV ads, raised money and urged supporters to pressure Obama and Congress to draw the line at extending current tax rates for only those making less than $250,000 a year or less.

PCCC and MoveOn are now thought of as the top two liberal progressive organizations by many in the grassroots, unlike OFA, which has lost most of its movement credibility. OFA’s silence on tax cuts was the second such move by OFA in the last week to speed along that brand disintegration.

At the end of November, OFA sent an e-mail to supporters encouraging them to send letters to the editor of their local newspapers in support of Obama’s call for a two-year pay freeze for government workers.

The left recoiled at the heresy.

“We’ve officially gone around the bend,” wrote David Dayen, at FireDogLake.com.

OFA, Dayen wrote, “originally began its life as an organization trying to get someone elected on the platform of hope, change, and progressive policies. You had a public option in health care, cap and trade, a more progressive tax system, diplomacy abroad, and a belief in American values of equality and opportunity.”

Robert Kuttner, co-editor of the American Prospect, called the use of OFA to advocate for freezing government worker pay “disgraceful.”

OFA’s silence on the Bush tax cut debate shows the difficulty of having a group intended to organize and direct the chaotic and often hardline grassroots when it is working on behalf of a politician in power who cuts deals, as most do.

When Obama announced OFA’s formation a few days before his inauguration in 2009, he said it was the result of the “largest grassroots movement in history.”

The organization, a spin-off of Obama’s campaign organization that boasted an e-mail list of 13 million names, was thought of as a juggernaut.

Now, some liberal progressives say that massive e-mail list is useless, and that OFA is irrelevant.

Lynda Tran, an OFA spokeswoman, said that the group was staying active in the current political debates.

“OFA supporters are working hard making calls to Congress, writing letters and making their voices heard on a number of important issues — including repealing [Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell], passing the DREAM Act and extending unemployment benefits for individuals who are out of work through no fault of their own, among others,” Tran said.

“The president has been clear he thinks it is critically important that middle class Americans not face a tax hike on January 1 — and OFA volunteers support his efforts to address this issue before the adjournment of the 111th Congress.”

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