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Why Obama agenda group faces pushback from some Democrats

Organizing for Action, an issue-advocacy group that spun off from President Obama's reelection campaign, is going after some Democrats and competing for fundraising dollars.

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OFA officials say they’re not concerned about next year’s election – they’re concerned about the issue. And in any case, they say their post-gun-vote events were more carrot than the stick.

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“Sometimes the focus is very much on shaming the folks who voted the wrong way, which is very important,” says Mr. Carson. “But I think showing people that we have their backs, that their constituents are with them on this, I think that’s particularly important." 

Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Susan Collins of Maine got some OFA love for their support of expanded background checks, as did Democratic Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, both of whom face competitive reelection races. OFA touted data from the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling that showed Senators Hagan and Landrieu helped their political prospects with their gun votes.  

But in Alaska, the Democratic Party chairman was not pleased. In a May 8 letter, Mike Wenstrup called on OFA to “cease its attacks on Democratic senators” and rejected “litmus tests.”

Like the Republicans, who have their own intraparty struggles fueled by big-money outside groups, “OFA has instituted a circular firing squad among Democrats,” Mr. Wenstrup wrote. The Democrats need to maintain their Senate majority in Washington to protect the Affordable Care Act, pass immigration reform, promote gay rights, and preserve the social safety net, he added.

OFA did not respond to Wenstrup’s letter. But other Democrats say their intraparty squabbles pale in comparison to the Republicans’. OFA prefera to highlight its core activities – for example, the 500 events they say OFA volunteers will have held between mid-April and the end of May supporting comprehensive immigration reform. Or state groups’ involvement in local issues, such as marriage equality in Illinois. Or OFA’s YouTube video on “climate deniers” that got a quarter-million views.

One big OFA agenda item that doesn’t require passing legislation is implementation of Obamacare – specifically, the start of open enrollment for the uninsured on Oct. 1. OFA plans to hold events promoting awareness of the law and how to enroll. A recent Pew poll found 42 percent of Americans don’t know the health-care law is still the law of the land.

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