Organizing for Action, the nonprofit organization created from President Barack Obama's campaign organization, Organizing for America, has been attracting a lot of flak from pundits for what is largely seen as its failure to help the president forward his agenda on major social issues like gun control and immigration reform.
"Contrary to its promise, Organizing for Action has not launched any major effort to rally the forces needed to win the immigration reform and gun control fights. One is left with a perplexing question: for what action is the OFA organizing?" asked Pablo Eisenberg, senior fellow at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute in a recent Huffington Post op-ed.
On Wednesday, President Obama was forced to hang his head in disappointment after the Senate shot down a bipartisan amendment to gun laws that would have expanded background checks for gun purchases at gun shows and online. Despite strong public outcry and personal lobbying across the country backed by narratives from victims of gun violence, support for the amendments fell six short of the 60 votes required for the amendment to pass. The president called the decision "a pretty shameful day in Washington" and said the senators caved to pressure from gun lobby group the National Rifle Association.
"Most of these senators could not offer any good reason for why we wouldn't want to make it harder for criminals and those with severe mental illnesses to buy a gun," Obama said in an ABC News report.
But in his withering critique of OFA, Eisenberg argued that so far, the grassroots flavored organization made up of former White House operatives have failed to live up to expectations.
"They haven't, as one might have expected, convened any conferences or workshops for nonprofits to enlist them as soldiers in the battle for gun control. Nor, as far as we know, have they reached out to individual groups to gain their support for such an initiative," he said.
"It is a major missed opportunity. Many large nonprofits, with substantial constituencies, have the money, staff and resources to mount major campaigns. The foundation community also has the money needed to finance comprehensive, sustained efforts. Together, they have the wherewithal to outspend and to politically outmuscle the National Rifle Association. Yet they haven't been asked to do anything. If they were to join forces with Mayor Bloomberg of New York, who's had the courage to give millions of dollars and his personal involvement to the cause, chances for much tighter gun controls would be enormously enhanced," he argued.
The OFA was also only able to raise $4.9 million in the first quarter of this year, a rocky start according to Josh Lederman in one report.
"The group's relatively humble showing its first fundraising quarter raised fresh questions about whether it will have the resources and support from Democrats to fulfill its mission," noted Lederman. "Although OFA is careful not to draw comparisons to the campaign, the disparities are difficult to ignore. In September, for example – the height of Obama's re-election – he and the Democratic National Committee raised roughly $181 million, or about $6 million per day," he added.
If the result of efforts to amend gun control laws is a litmus test of the OFA's influence as suggested in this report, the organization might just be another failed experiment.
In a response to the failed amendments to gun laws in the Senate posted on its website, NRA Executive Director Chris Cox said it would not have helped in reducing violent crime.
"As we have noted previously, expanding background checks, at gun shows or elsewhere, will not reduce violent crime or keep our kids safe in their schools," said Cox.
"The NRA will continue to work with Republicans and Democrats who are committed to protecting our children in schools, prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law, and fixing our broken mental health system. We are grateful for the hard work and leadership of those Senators who chose to pursue meaningful solutions to our nation's most pressing problems," he added.