Uh, can you say creepy?
Lost amid all of the jubilation of the Obama victory was the announcement by the Obama transition team that it had set up a separate transition program beyond the one that is paid for by the American taxpayer. Called the “Obama/Biden Transition Project,” it is a 501(c)4 tax-exempt organization, with no limits on the contributions it can receive and no requirements to divulge the names of individuals or organizations that give it money.
Traditionally, the victorious campaign has set up inaugural funds, as well as funds to deal with legal costs and other expenses to close down the campaign. Others have set up quasi-corporate offices to deal with transition issues, such as in 2000, when, with the election in doubt, the Bush-Cheney team set up a private transition office in McLean, Virginia, covering the costs from campaign contributions and other fundraising. Ultimately, the federal government, headed by the Government Services Administration, covers the cost of the transition staff, providing it with office space and all equipment.
No one is certain that any political organization has ever set up a tax-exempt entity that would be shrouded in such secrecy, particularly when the Obama claimed he would be more transparent about the way things were done.
“To my knowledge, it’s never been done, and people should be asking why the Obama people chose to do it this way,” says a longtime Washington Republican, who has been involved in transitions for the Reagan and Bush campaign teams.
According to an Obama campaign staffer who is being retained for the transition and inauguration planning, the “project” is intended not only to identify personnel for the Obama Administration, but to then send those project employees who know all of the senior staff in the various Cabinet departments and federal agencies out into the corporate and lobbying community to leverage those contacts.
“It’s taking the old ‘K Street Project’ that Republicans had and doing it twice as fast and on steroids,” explains the aide. “So, if you have a Project aide working on Commerce Department transition, that Project aide will be more likely to get a senior lobbying job because of all those connections at Commerce. That former Project aide will also be able raise more money for Democrats in this town and help others with jobs and such.”
As well, the nonprofit may also serve as a haven for Obama supporters and campaign loyalists who for one reason or another can’t be employed by the Administration or in the federal government. “There are some people who have been with us from the beginning who are clearly political liabilities or who won’t be able to qualify for a job, say, because they can’t get a security clearance,” says another aide, who was unaware of the unique Obama transition project’s tax status.
Regardless of the purpose, Obama campaign officials say there is no intention of shutting down the 501(c) 4 Project after the transition is over.
Now which one of the Obama associates couldn’t get a security clearance? Any guesses?