Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has launched a new gun control group with the aim of raising $20 million to go head-to-head with the National Rifle Association in 2014. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has injected more than $10 million into his gun control campaign through his own political action committee, Independence USA PAC.
Former US Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez created Republicans for Immigration Reform after the GOP’s hard-line anti-immigrant stance contributed to its defeat last November.
An Obama-related super PAC, Priorities USA, will continue fund-raising for Democrats in 2014 and 2016. Super PACs are required to disclose the identity of their contributors, even if the contributor is just the name of a corporation. As a charitable organization, Organizing for Action is not required to reveal its donors, but the group has nonetheless promised to do so on a quarterly basis, beginning in April.
“They’ve committed to disclosure but they don’t legally have to, so therefore, they may change their mind,” said Thomas Mann, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution.
Jeff Faux, founder of Economic Policy Institute in Washington, said there is little question that Organizing for Action has set its sights on impacting the 2014 elections. While he doubts the group will sway many Republican in Congress, it will succeed if it “softens up the electorate” by painting Republicans as the obstacle.
“The only hope Obama has for any kind of significant legacy now is to take over the House in 2014,” Faux said.
But the potential for fissures to develop in the Democratic base is real, as the competition for money from a limited pool of contributors heats up, he said.
Other progressives fear that Organizing for Action will be used to bully more liberal Democrats into falling in line with the president’s push for entitlement reform as he tries to work with Republicans to curb spending. A former Democratic member of Congress said some colleagues have questioned the organization’s purpose. “Is it going to be used to protect Obama from criticism from the left?” said the former congressman, who did not want to speak on the record for political reasons. “OFA is seen as being more of a personal organization than a big “D” Democrat organization.”
The organization recently poured $100,000 into Web ads directed at Senator Susan Collins of Maine and a dozen other Republican lawmakers to promote gun-control measures. That same day, the group held a rally outside Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte’s Nashua, N.H., office to call for stricter background checks for gun buyers.
Collins said she does not expect Organizing for Action to have much impact: “While groups such as this partisan one certainly have every right to advocate for positions in which they believe, they do not have any influence over my decisions.”
But it gives a political focal point to Obama supporters like Kate Malloy, a 29-year-old Organizing for Action volunteer from Manchester, N.H., who attended this week’s summit.
“If they’re not going to listen to constituents,’’ Malloy said, “they will at least have to defend their positions and be held accountable.’’