April 01, 2013
Money talks in Washington – this time literally. The Washington Post recently reported that Organizing for Action, a nonprofit organization established to raise funds for President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, is now responsible for Obama’s personal Twitter feed. While the President will continue to tweet occasionally (he signs his personal tweets “-bo”), Organizing for Action now runs @BarackObama on a daily basis. The account, which once functioned as Obama’s personal and campaign account, has nearly 29 million followers.
People are expressing concern that the account is becoming a mouthpiece for wealthy donors. Organizing for Action, as a “social welfare group,” is tax-exempt and can accept unlimited monetary contributions with limited transparency. Its fundraising efforts are targeted at wealthy individuals and corporations, with perks for top donors like quarterly OFA board meetings with the President, and now control over the most followed Twitter account among world leaders.
Ultra-wealthy donors have always had more access to the politically powerful. The real problem here is that it makes the presidential Twitter account look deceptive. Twitter is understood to represent a direct voice from the author to the audience. Now the President’s mouthpiece is actually run by an independent organization. The account is under the President’s name, uses his photo and links to his personal website. While most people probably never assumed that Obama was on his Blackberry tweeting all day, they at least assumed the tweets matched his viewpoints and were written by White House staff. Now, Organizing for Action gets to speak for the President even though its tweets may not align with the President’s thoughts or positions.
People follow @BarackObama because they want a direct link to the President and his viewpoints. If Obama doesn’t want to lose followers, he should be careful about putting his donors’ money where his mouth is.