In 2010, Republicans used dark money “social welfare nonprofits” to target state legislatures in order to redistrict a majority in the House. They were so successful that in 2012 they received 1.1 million fewer votes than Democrats and still managed to keep a majority of more than 30 seats.
On Thursday, we reported how Republicans were bragging about this strategy — and suggesting that the Democrats had no prayer of regaining the House until after redistricting in 2020.
But suddenly, Democratic hopes don’t seem so dim.
Obama for America — the group launched in 2007 to elect President Obama — will be relaunched on Sunday as Organizing for Action, a 501(c)4 nonprofit that will be run by Jim Messina, Obama’s 2012 campaign manager.
First Lady Michelle Obama made the announcement to supporters via YouTube:
“We’ll work on the key battles of our generation, train the next generation of grassroots organizers and leaders, and organize around local issues in our own communities,” Messina said in message to donors.
After Obama was first elected, OFA became part of the Democratic National Committee. The group never found its stride in advocating for the president’s agenda, but it was able to keep organizers in the field across crucial swing states, providing the infrastructure that delivered President Obama’s electoral college landslide in 2012.
By officially separating itself into an outside group, Organizing for Action can counterbalance the nonprofits on the right that enjoy unlimited donations from individuals and corporations, including Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS. Though these groups do not have to name their donors, the new OFA says that it will.
With an active database of four million donors, OFA is nearly as powerful as a political party itself. And access to that list may prove to be contentious issue.
“There is the outstanding question of the lists, data, etc.,” one Democratic operative told Buzzfeed. “If that isn’t shared with the DNC, it definitely could be a potential problem.”
OFA’s strength is in galvanizing young people and other parts of the Obama coalition who stayed home in 2010.
“The central political problem faced by Democrats is this: How to make the midterm electorate look like the presidential one, rather than the older and whiter electorate of, say, 2010?” writes The Washington Post‘s Jamelle Bouie. “A large, well-funded grassroots organization, devoted to persuasion and activism, could become the key tool to reactivating 2012 voters, and bringing them to the polls in 2014.”