WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — President Obama spoke to top-tier donors of Organizing for Action Tuesday night despite facing criticism from campaign finance watchdogs.
Donors were asked to contribute $50,000 to see Obama speak on the first day of the group’s two-day summit at a high-priced hotel a few blocks away from the White House.
Obama explained to his supporters about his “charm offensive” to reach out to Republicans.
“The truth of the matter is all I’ve been doing is just calling up folks and trying to see if we can break through some of the gobbledygook of our politics here,” Obama said, according to CBS News. “We’ve got to get members of Congress involved in these discussions, not just leadership, because I think a lot of them feel as if they don’t have the opportunity to break out of some of this partisan gridlock.”
Obama said the group born out of his re-election campaign can play an important role in his second term.
“I’ve graduated,” Obama said. “I’ve run my last campaign. But we’re not done with the work that led me to run in the first place.”
Obama admitted that he didn’t do enough to keep his 2008 supporters engaged in his first term and that the group can help garner support from lawmakers to support his agenda.
“I actually just want to govern – at least for a couple of years,” Obama said.
Obama’s appearance at Organizing for Action – a group founded by his former campaign manager Jim Messina – comes after allegations that high-priced donors would be allowed to visit the president at the White House, CBS News reports.
“Organizing for Action is a mistake by President Obama that he should correct,” Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer told CBS News in a statement. “Organizing for Action is an unprecedented entity that creates new opportunities for big donors and bundlers of large amounts to obtain corrupting influence over executive branch policies and decisions.”
White House officials say the nonprofit group is not a partisan organization aimed at electing specific candidates.
“This is something that should be celebrated, not criticized,” former White House senior adviser David Plouffe said.
“I suppose we all could sit back and relax after the campaign and say we got him re-elected,” Messina said. “But it’s not `yes he can,’ it’s `yes we can.'”
Obama told the group he hopes it continues when his term is finished.
“What we want is to make sure that the voices of the people who put me here continue to be heard,” Obama said. “That they’re not just heard during election time, that they’re not just heard in terms of dollar solicitations, that we are helping to build or sustain a network of citizens who have a voice in the most critical debates that are going to be taking place over the next year, year and a half, and if it works, potentially beyond.”
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