Philadelphia partner Scott Coffina wrote an article for the Legal Intelligencer’s Pennsylvania Law Weekly titled, “The Legal and Ethical Issues Surrounding Organizing for Action.”
Just before President Obama's second inauguration, his campaign committee, Obama for America, transformed into Organizing for Action (OFA), a nonprofit "social welfare organization" that, under Section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, is exempt from federal income tax. OFA was instantly a powerful force to advance the president's agenda, with assets of two million campaign volunteers, 17 million email addresses and approximately 27 million Twitter followers at its disposal.
Scott outlines why the OFA more closely resembles the campaign organization from which it was born, rather than an ordinary social welfare group, only without the fundraising limits and requirement that its donors be disclosed.
He notes that no one but the Obama organization itself has seemed comfortable with OFA since the time it was announced, including the Democratic party, and delves into the definition of a 501(c)(4) organization and applicable guidance. He also discusses evidence of direct engagement in partisan politics by OFA.
Scott says, “the ‘dark money,’ the money-for-access, and the avowed partisan electoral aims of the president combined with his campaign leadership being at the helm of OFA all raise legal and ethical questions about the unique relationship between the White House and this outside group that may prove to be OFA's undoing.”