Obama's campaign team Obama for America is going to get a big makeover this weekend as a "501(c)4 social welfare group," which means it's an advocacy group that can accept extremely large anonymous donations — not unlike Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS.
The L.A. Times's Matea Gold first reported that Obama for America would reorganize itself as a 501(c)4 social welfare group, which is a really fancy, technical term for a non-profit advocacy group. The idea the group will help Obama keep fighting the good fight in the Capital by using most of the resources assembled during the long campaign, like organizing tools and voter data. Certain kinds of valuable information might get housed under a different legal entity so it can still be used by the Democratic National Committee and any future Democratic campaigns.
The changes won't be officially announced until Obama supporters and former campaign employees arrive at the Obama Campaign Legacy Conference in Washington on Sunday. The group will probably not keep the name Obama for America, though no one knows what the new name is yet. We're hoping for the Blue Ivy Obama Super PAC.
So, how big of a deal is this for the Obama administration? Huge, if you ask strategist Joe Trippi. "This just dwarfs any part of the Democratic coalition," said Trippi. "This is the biggest leg of the stool. There are really significant implications in terms of the permanent power center within the party."
The new group will be totally separate from the similar-but-not-quite-the-same Obama super PAC Priorities USA. It will also be separate and different from the Democratic National Committee. Depending on the official paperwork the group files, it may also not be able to coordinate anything with the Democratic National Committee for political and legal reasons. Politico points to the new group's formation, and Messina being in the driver's seat, as a direct rejection of the DNC and its chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, from the administration. It's no secret there have been tensions between the President and Wasserman Schultz in the past.
The President won't have to relearn very many names, which is a plus. The group will be made up mostly of former Obama campaign officials. Jim Messina, Obama's former campaign manager, is expected to be the group's new leader. Politico's Glenn Thrush, Reid Epstien and Byron Tau report Messina will serve as the group's national chair.
One of the most interesting parts of the group's new legal structure is that it will be able to accept donations from anonymous sources, something the President has spoken out against in the past. The group has the option of taking the moral high road and voluntarily disclosing their donor list, and most expect that to be their course of action. It will lead to some unwanted questioning if they don't, that's for sure.
So, as an advocacy group, the new beast will be pushing all of the President's big second term agendas: raising the debt ceiling, immigration reform and, perhaps most importantly, gun control. The battle over gun control is already off to a rocky start, which is probably why The New York Times' Jeff Zeleny reports guns will be the group's first big project.