WH denies insincerity in lawmaker outreach

March 12, 2013 at 4:00 AM
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WASHINGTON, March 12 (UPI) -- The White House denied any hypocrisy in President Obama's wooing of Republicans and then speaking to donors and activists mobilized to support his priorities.

The Wednesday night dinner of the new non-profit Organizing for Action group Obama will address does not indicate insincerity or contradiction with meetings Obama scheduled with Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

The advocacy group -- created as a successor to the Obama re-election campaign and still using the barackobama.com campaign URL as its website address -- is holding its Founders' Summit at a Washington hotel Wednesday and Thursday.

The event seeks to mobilize supporters of Obama's legislative priorities, notably immigration overhaul, gun safety and the budget, the group's website indicates.

Obama has been reaching out to Republican and Democratic lawmakers in an attempt to woo Republicans -- and some Democrats -- opposed to his tax and spending plans, as well as immigration reform, gun safety and other second-term legislative proposals.

Obama's OFA appearance while he is engaged in a congressional "charm" offensive raised suspicions among Republican critics who suggested Obama was just going through the motions of seeking a compromise on the budget and other issues.

Obama's appearance at the event also follows a New York Times report donors contributing or raising at least $500,000 for the new organization would be named to a "national advisory board" and would have quarterly meetings with the president.

Both points brought a vigorous exchange in Monday's White House press briefing during a reporter's follow-up question.

Q: "I was just taken aback by your answer to the question about Organizing for Action. You're saying --"

Carney: "You were taken aback?"

Q: "-- it's no different than -- that the president sees this group as no different than the [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee] or any other group you speak to?"

Carney: "I said it's --"

Q: "I mean, this is a group --"

Carney: :I didn't say that. I said it's similar."

Q: -- "that's planning on coordinating with the White House, is it not?"

Carney: "Well, OFA, again --"

Q: "Was legally set up so it could do that, right?"

Carney: -- "was set up to promote the president's public policy agenda. And therefore, as anyone would expect, the president would likely meet with their representatives to discuss his agenda.

"Any notion, as we've talked about, that there's a price set for a meeting with the president is absurd and wrong. I mean, the comparison here is that the president goes and speaks about his policy agenda to a variety of groups that support that agenda, including the [Democratic National Committee] or the DSCC or the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee], including other organizations that have policy ideas that are --"

Q: "This group is going to spend money on his behalf to promote his agenda."

Carney: "No, this group is promoting a policy agenda. It is not trying to elect him, obviously, since he's --"

Q: "No, no, no, but they're spending money to promote the agenda."

Carney: "Sure. As organizations do all over town and all over the country. They spend money to promote policy ideas."

Q: "But on his behalf, coordinating with the White House."

Carney: "No, on the American people's behalf. The president believes that the agenda that he's putting forward obviously is one that would benefit the middle class and benefit the country.

"The idea that an organization is out there promoting immigration reform -- we heard from a lot of Republicans this weekend about their support for comprehensive immigration reform, much as the president supports comprehensive immigration reform. Would you argue then that this organization is inappropriately somehow supporting their agenda?

"I think that there really is an issue here that's about the president's agenda, the president's policy proposals. The president is out there pushing for his agenda. And he obviously believes that an organization like this is both helpful and appropriate in engaging the American people, engaging those Americans who support this agenda in a way that helps move the process forward."

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