Pro-Obama 527 defends itself… from Obama

Vote Hope — the San Francisco-based Section 527 issue-advocacy group indirectly touting Barack Obama for President, despite Obama’s stated opposition to 527s and preference that people support his campaign directly — has been misunderstood, communications director Jenifer Ancona told me this morning.

Vote Hope is still smarting from an Aug. 8 San Francisco Chronicle story which noted Obama has refused to take money from political action committees and has criticized 527s. That same day at a news conference in Oakland, Obama was asked if Vote Hope’s support constitutes hypocrisy given his stated opposition to 527s.

obama-in-oakland-8-8-07-laura-a-oda.jpg“It would be hypocrisy if I had anything to do with them, since I just heard of them. This is not something that I authorized or had any part of,” he replied. “My recommendation to people who are interested in supporting me is to support me through our campaign — the way over 250,000 donors have supported us, the way hundreds of thousands of volunteers have supported us. Get involved in the campaign that we’ve set up, that is above board, that is transparent, that is legal. And I think if people channel their energies in that way, we’ll all be better off.”

Ancona told me today “it’s not that we disagree with him… It’s just that there are more people out there who we can harness. I just think he doesn’t know what we’re doing… I feel like if he could see that, I don’t know how he could disagree with giving people an outlet to get involved in politics for the first time.”

Indeed, he doesn’t disagree with involving young voters, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt told me today — he just wants them “to participate directly with the campaign.”

A new “Generation Obama” multi-city grassroots network — including an effort here in San Francisco — geared towards younger voters kicked off this weekend, LaBolt noted, and “Camp Obama” traning sessions — including one held Aug. 11 in San Francisco — have prepared mobilizers in 40 of California’s 53 Congressional districts to leverage their own contacts into support for the campaign. “We’re running a bottom-up campaign.”

More after the jump…

Apparently it’s not yet bottom-up enough for Vote Hope. Ancona said “the whole campaign process is changing, it’s being democratized.” The age of top-down, consultant-driven campaigns is ending, she said, and Vote Hope is targeting young professionals of ages 22-35 by using creative media and outreach strategies, though not the mean-spirited Swift Boat tactics used by some other 527s.

“Everyone who wants to get directly involved in his campaign can do that,” she said, but California’s untapped electorate is vast and “one campaign could never reach all the people who could potentially be reached at this time… It’s such a big state that even most large-scale campaigns don’t do ground campaigns, that’s why it’s always like an air war where people get inundated with mail and TV ads.”

Besides, “it’s not true that it’s just focused on one candidate –- Barack Obama is the top of the ticket and the one generating a lot of excitement… but we actually are supporting a number of candidates in local areas across California,” she said. “Vote Hope is not a short-term, fly-by-night thing; we’re here and we’re going to be here after the primaries… We’re people who just decided we want to do it ourselves.”

With other people’s money, that is. IRS filings show Vote Hope — which, as a 527, isn’t bound by the contribution limits that apply to presidential candidates’ campaigns — by midyear had received almost all of its money from two households: $105,000 from San Francisco attorney Steve Phillips and his wife; and $100,000 from Oakland developer Wayne Jordan and his wife, philanthropist Quinn Delaney. Ancona says they’re simply continuing their long record of supporting voter participation and social engagement.

If you want to weigh the argument for yourself, Vote Hope is holding a happy hour at 6:30 p.m. tonight at Levende East, at 827 Washington St. in Oakland; it’s not a fundraiser, just the third in a series of 20 meet-and-greets to be held across the state (the first two were in San Francisco and Sacramento).

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Ted Lawrence

    Sounds like Obama’s consultants want to make sure that no one divides up their money pot.