Organizing for America (OFA) is a project of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The American public first heard about OFA on January 17, 2009, when President Barack Obama announced that the organization would soon open its doors for business. Two months later, in mid-March, OFA was officially launched.
Basing its operations on the third floor of the DNC's Capitol Hill headquarters, OFA consists of a vast network of volunteers whose mission is to “let their friends and neighbors know about the President's plan to invest in America's future, improve health care and education, create green jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and cut the deficit in half over the next four years.”
A New York Times report describes OFA as “an army of [Obama] supporters talking, sending e-mail and texting to friends and neighbors as they try to mold public opinion.”
OFA is an outgrowth of “Obama For America,” the network of Obama supporters who went door-to-door urging voters to back the Illinois senator in the 2008 presidential race. Shortly after election day in November of that year, Obama For America’s organizers met in Chicago and voiced their desire to keep their operation active in some form, even though the presidential campaign was over. Their wishes were subsequently echoed by Obama For America’s enthusiastic foot soldiers, who in December 2008 held some 4,800 house meetings nationwide to rally support for such a venture. Moreover, 500,000 Obama supporters completed a survey wherein they, too, expressed a wish to continue their organization’s work. Out of those roots, OFA was formed.
Another factor that motivated the Obama administration to create OFA was the fact that after the new President had taken his oath of office, his White House was, by law, barred from using (for subsequent political purposes) the 13-million-name e-mail list of supporters it had compiled during the 2008 presidential race. Thus the administration established OFA within the structure of the Democratic Party, which was not bound by such restrictions; OFA is free to use the aforementioned list as it pleases. Nor is OFA subject to IRS nonproﬁt regulations, because it has no independent legal status outside the DNC.
Those wishing to become involved with OFA can do so by visiting the project's website, which is a subsection of BarackObama.com, and affirming their commitment to a two-part pledge:
The above-referenced "plan," which OFA says “will rebuild and renew America by creating jobs and investing in the three areas most critical to our future,” consists of three components:
Describing the role he hoped OFA would eventually play in American politics, Barack Obama said in early 2009:
"As President, I will need the help of all Americans to meet the challenges that lie ahead. That’s why I’m asking people like you, who fought for change during the campaign, to continue fighting for change in your communities....
"Volunteers, grass roots leaders, and ordinary citizens will continue to drive our organization, helping us bring about the changes we proposed during the campaign.... The change we've worked so hard for will not happen unless ordinary Americans get involved. And supporters like you must lead the way."
As one of its strategies for influencing public opinion, OFA seeks to exploit the power of the Internet as a networking and communication medium. Whereas previous U.S. presidents communicated with the American public chiefly by recording a weekly speech and then releasing it for radio stations to air on Saturday mornings, President Obama regularly disseminates his messages via popular websites as well. For example, he records videos explaining his policy objectives and then, through OFA, posts them on YouTube and on the White House website, where they are widely viewed.
OFA’s Director of Organizing is Mitch Stewart, described by The New York Times as “a low-key operative who helped run Mr. Obama’s [2008 presidential campaign] effort in three critical states — Iowa and Indiana in the primary season and Virginia in the general election.” “The President,” said Stewart in March 2009, “has a bold plan to invest in America's future and get our economy moving again, and now he needs our help to turn his budget into law. That’s why it’s so important for Americans … to go door-to-door and talk to their neighbors about the President's plan and ask them for their support.” That same month, Stewart stated that Obama already “has made great strides in turning the economy around with passage of his jobs and economic recovery package.”
Another key player for OFA is the DNC's executive director, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, who served as the battleground states director for Obama’s presidential campaign.
Virginia governor and DNC chairman Tim Kaine also works closely with OFA.
In early September 2009, the OFA website disseminated a message to President Obama's base of supporters, urging them to use the upcoming eighth anniversary of 9/11 to call on lawmakers to pass health-care reform legislation. The message read, in part:
When outraged American voters packed town hall meetings during the nationwide debate over proposed changes to healthcare law, OFA disseminated a mass email depicting those who questioned the wisdom of Obamacare as “Right-Wing Domestic Terrorists who are subverting the American Democratic Process, whipped to a frenzy by their Fox Propaganda Network ceaselessly re-seizing power for their treacherous leaders.”
"All 50 states are coordinating in this -- as we fight back against our own Right-Wing Domestic Terrorists who are subverting the American Democratic process, whipped to a frenzy by their Fox Propaganda Network ceaselessly re-seizing power for their treacherous leaders."