Jim Messina, pasty white self-proclaimed “maestro” of the Barack Obama campaign for President, has shed his populist image for the trappings of capitalism.
Jim Messina, the former campaign manager to President Barack Obama who spent two decades in politics out of the public eye, is increasingly stepping out from the shadows — and onto other Democrats’ toes.
Messina is moving aggressively to capitalize on his newfound fame and status as the maestro who ran a masterful reelection campaign for a president mired in a slumping economy. He’s building a political fiefdom through his deep ties to rich Democrats and a nexus of big-money operations including the Obama nonprofit Organizing for Action, whose major donors Messina is hosting in his office Monday and whom the president will address Tuesday, and Priorities USA, the pro-Obama turned pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC.
And here’s the kicker- he’s become everything the democrats savaged in Mitt Romney, oil companies to boot.
He’s grabbing clients around the world, some of whom seem at odds with one another. And he’s grabbing cash, in the form of speeches at roughly $50,000 a pop to corporate special interests like the American Petroleum Institute and foreign groups like the government of the United Arab Emirate of Sharjah whose positions don’t always jibe with liberal or democratic ideals.
And it’s clear that when Messina grows up, what he wants more than anything else is to be Karl Rove, and some lefties aren’t loving it.
It’s the first time that Messina, 44, a former Hill staffer raised by a single mother on a tight budget, is making serious money. He appears to be following a path paved by George W. Bush’s political guru, Karl Rove, who turned his master strategist role into a vaunted brand and created a shadow version of the Republican Party machinery through his unlimited-money Crossroads groups.
But Messina’s effort to tap his earning potential while maintaining a hand on the levers of the party’s apparatuses has fueled grumbles from various Democratic donors and operatives, who accuse him — privately, and without the risk or accountability that can come from on-the-record criticism — of taking more than his share of the credit for a multifaceted victory, and of a cash binge that exposes Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to potential backlash. Some Democrats question whether it’s unwise to have a single figure wield so much influence, while many former colleagues see Messina less as a Rove-like figure than as a deft operator who successfully implemented a strategy crafted by others.
Messina has completed the transformation to the dark side. He has become all that the left spit at over the last seven years.
Messina — like Rove before him — has gravitated away from the party and campaign system in which he cut his teeth toward the unlimited-money outside infrastructure that reshaped politics after the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision. It’s a notable shift, given that Democrats up to and including Obama had assailed Rove and the big money he was raising as everything that’s wrong with modern politics, before finally coming to embrace the new reality in which money and power have migrated to the outside groups and away from the party and campaign system.
Recently, Messina began quietly backing away from the inside system, last month ending a $15,000-a-month consulting agreement with the Democratic National Committee. The move came as he assumed leadership of the pro-Clinton Priorities USA outside spending outfit, prompting legal and practical questions about the many hats he was wearing. “Obviously, respecting both the letter and the spirit of the law, he just couldn’t have done both,” said a source close to Messina. The source added that Messina was also preparing to end a $7,000-a-month contract with Obama’s still-idling presidential campaign because he had mostly finished the work of winding it down.
Remember that Citizens United thing?
Just two weeks after the GOP released a report detailing what went wrong in Romney’s defeat, Messina is doubtful their prescriptions will work likening the effort to “rearranging chairs on the deck of the Titanic,” because the party’s policies are “so far out of the mainstream.”
Messina blamed Citizens United, which he called “the most difficult and wrong Supreme Court case in the past decade,” for opening the gates for unlimited money in elections. Organizing for Action is classified as a 501(c)(4), designated for groups that operate “exclusively for the promotion of social welfare,” and are not required to disclose their donors (though Messina has said in the past they will). Both sides raised over $1 billion in the 2012 election making it the most expensive election on record.
Now Messina loves him some Citizens
Other Democrats, like Jim Messina, say Democrats can’t afford to not use all the tools at their disposal, not with the vast amount of fundraising and spending taking place on the Republican side.
The big mouth who was always decrying undisclosed money raised $11 million from undisclosed sources.
And now Messina is raking it in:
A common ritual for high-profile politicians and operatives entering the private sector including Rove, this is where Messina pocketed some of his first big private-sector checks, earning payments “in the mid-five figure range” for each speech, according to the source close to him. In addition to API’s board of directors and the government of Sharjah, Messina has spoken to the Western Energy Institute, the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts, various health care groups and an oil-company sponsored conference in Azerbaijan. The source close to Messina cautioned not to conflate his business and political work with the speaking gigs, explaining that, just because he might give a talk “it doesn’t mean that Jim condones everything that any individual group has done or said or would do.” Sometimes, though, it all aligns perfectly, such as when he gave a speech to a venture capital firm run by a major Obama donor named Vinod Khosla, with whom he had become friendly. The CEO of a Khosla-backed green energy company called LanzaTech attended the speech and was impressed. In September, she asked him to join her board, and he accepted.
Anyone care to bet how much of that he “spreads around”?
Messina is just one more cheap left wing phony whose real interest is becoming another uber-wealthy liberal who can then pretend to care about the poor low information voters.
For a profit.