Obama for America, which has become Organizing for Action, is trying to raise $50 million from a small group of elite donors, The New York Times reported Saturday.
Those involved in the effort say at least half of OFA's budget will come from donors who give at least $500,000. Donors' names will be voluntarily disclosed every few months, OFA officials said.
The money will be used for salaries, rent and advertising to drive support for Obama's second-term priorities -- gun violence, climate change and immigration reform.
OFA is set up as a 501(c)(4), a "social advocacy group" -- like the Sierra Club or the National Rifle Association -- so it is not bound by federal contribution limits. But its legal framework puts it in an uncharted landscape without a clear political map, the newspaper said.
Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause -- a non-partisan organization that advocates for campaign finance reform -- said Obama "is setting a very bad model setting up this organization."
"It just smells," Edgar told the Times.
Those who contribute $50,000 will be invited to a "founders summit" next month near the White House, where they will mingle with former Obama White House aides. Giving or raising at least $500,000 will put donors on a national advisory board and the privilege to attend quarterly meetings with the president.