Skip to main content

Why we're raising money to support Obama agenda

By Jim Messina, Special to CNN
updated 10:04 AM EST, Thu March 7, 2013
Jim Messina says among the policies that Organizing for Action has pushed support to is Obama's plan to curb gun violence
Jim Messina says among the policies that Organizing for Action has pushed support to is Obama's plan to curb gun violence
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jim Messina: Post-election, a new organization aims to advance Obama's agenda
  • He says goal is to counter well-funded special interests that don't represent majority views
  • An example: Gun lobbyists fighting background checks 90% in U.S. support, he says
  • Messina: Group will shun funds from corporations, lobbyists, will represent Americans

Editor's note: Jim Messina is the national chairman of Organizing for Action, a nonprofit issue advocacy group. He is a former deputy White House chief of staff to President Barack Obama and was the president's campaign manager for the 2012 election.

(CNN) -- You can't change Washington from the inside. President Obama was criticized for stating that simple truth during the campaign, but without Americans organizing in support of the issues they believe in, lobbyists and special interests will drive the agenda in Washington.

At this crossroads for our economy, we can't afford business as usual. That's why we've formed Organizing for Action, to ensure that the voices of the majority of Americans who voted for policies that will strengthen the middle class will be heard.

'Obama for America' morphs into 'Organizing for Action'

As we worked for change during the president's first term, we saw special interests spend unprecedented amounts in an attempt to persuade Congress to vote against policies the American people voted for.

Jim Messina
Jim Messina

History is repeating itself. Gun manufacturers are well represented. The NRA is running advertisements to defeat common sense gun safety measures like universal background checks, which more than 90% of Americans support. Groups with unnamed backers are advocating against comprehensive immigration reform. We have no plans to shrug this off and tell those Americans organizing their communities to stand down.

While the president delivered the State of the Union address, volunteers at more than 1,200 events were asking their friends and neighbors to join them in ensuring that agenda is enacted. Since Organizing for Action was established six weeks ago, volunteers have held more than 100 events in more than 80 congressional districts demanding a yes vote on the president's plan to curb gun violence. Whether it's participating in a social media campaign or hosting a press conference, 964,000 Americans have already mobilized through Organizing for Action -- and we've ensured they have the tools they need to get the attention they deserve.

Push-back from some quarters has been fierce. Members of Congress who are used to just worrying about a few interest groups will face broader based opposition because of organizing efforts by Organizing for Action volunteers around the country. Those who previously had special access will no longer be unchallenged.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



There has been some confusion about what Organizing for Action is and is not. Organizing for Action is an issue advocacy group, not an electoral one. We'll mobilize to support the president's agenda, but we won't do so on behalf of political candidates. The president has always believed that special interests have undue influence over the policymaking process, and the mission of this organization is to rebalance the power structure.

Obama supporters launch ad campaign to push gun proposals

While Organizing for Action is a nonprofit social welfare organization that faces a lower disclosure threshold than a political campaign, we believe in being open and transparent. That's why every donor who gives $250 or more to this organization will be disclosed on the website with the exact amount they give on a quarterly basis. We have now decided not to accept contributions from corporations, federal lobbyists or foreign donors.

Supporters of Organizing for Action will dedicate their time to mobilize their friends and neighbors on behalf of the president's agenda. Whether you're a volunteer or a donor, we can't and we won't guarantee access to any government officials. But just as the president and administration officials deliver updates on the legislative process to Americans and organizations across the ideological spectrum, there may be occasions when members of Organizing for Action are included in those updates. These are not opportunities to lobby -- they are briefings on the positions the president has taken and the status of seeing them through.

Special interests shouldn't have a stranglehold on the policymaking process. Too many Americans worked too hard over the past six years to ensure that the middle class gets a fair shot to stop now. For every lobbying group that puts a dollar on the air tearing down the president's agenda, an Organizing for Action volunteer will mobilize to counter it. Instead of coming from the highest paid lobbyists on K Street, change will come from Americans organizing across the nation.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jim Messina

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:42 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
updated 2:51 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
updated 4:13 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
updated 7:55 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
updated 8:42 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
updated 11:00 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
updated 4:54 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
updated 5:23 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
updated 1:39 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
updated 3:20 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
updated 9:56 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
updated 4:01 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
updated 9:53 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
updated 5:53 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
updated 10:50 AM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
updated 4:23 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
updated 9:26 AM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
updated 9:39 AM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
updated 12:38 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT