Which Database: OFA or NSA?

In the wake of the explosive NSA data-mining revelations, Breitbart TV reminded us of an interesting Rep. Maxine Waters bombshell from February.  In an interview, Rep. Waters described a very powerful database that "no one has ever seen before in life," "put in place" by Obama, that had "information about everything on every individual on ways that it's never been done before." [sic]

The Breitbart piece was titled "Breitbart Flashback: Maxine Waters Reveals Obama's Secret Database Filled with Voters' Private Info."

Although what Rep. Waters described seems eerily similar to the recently leaked NSA secret database, she was not referring to the NSA, and not necessarily to anything "secret."

Waters and her interviewer specifically identified the keeper of the "powerful" database that she described as "Organizing for America" ("OFA") -- Obama's campaign machine, which at the time was being restructured as a 501(c)4 and renamed "Organizing for Action."

That database began as a massive voter "list" for the 2008 campaign -- the brainchild of Obama advisor David Plouffe, who was "instructed" by Obama to turn it into a "new lever of government." A second successful election later, that list evolved into a database that was the subject of a November 2012 Washington Post article that opened with this:

If you voted this election season, President Obama almost certainly has a file on you. His vast campaign database includes information on voters' magazine subscriptions, car registrations, housing values and hunting licenses, along with scores estimating how likely they were to cast ballots for his reelection. And although the election is over, Obama's database is just getting started. Democrats are pressing to expand and redeploy the most sophisticated voter list in history.

The Post piece was written before the startling revelation that the list would no longer be maintained by the DNC. An American Thinker column covered OFA's reorganization, noting that many Democrat strategists seemed not only surprised, but also uncomfortable with the idea that Obama's massive campaign organization would not be folding back into the DNC as it did after the 2008 election. As Politico noted, other Democrat-supporting groups and wealthy donors apparently folded into it (or are at least closely "affiliated"), such as mega-contributor George Soros, Media Matters, and the Center for American Progress. In addition, besides Plouffe, other familiar names in the OFA circle came from the inner circle of Obama's administration: David Axelrod, Stephanie Cutter, Jim Messina, Robert Gibbs, and Jon Carson.

The National Journal noted some Democrat "grumbling" about a potential "power struggle between the national party, which aims to elect Democrats above all else, and the new group, which aims to build the president's legacy[.]" The Atlantic Wire summed up all the fretting by "detractors and the media" over the new OFA in three parts: its debatable "promotion of social welfare," Obama's "permanent state of political campaigning," and the appearance of "selling access to the White House."

The Huffington Post observed:  "OFA's close ties to the West Wing and its control over the former campaign's resources has raised questions about where the nonprofit group ends and the White House starts." The New York Times called OFA's restructuring unprecedented and "an extension of the [Obama] administration."

Interesting points all (besides coming from the mainstream media):  an administration linked to an amply-funded nonprofit group that controls a massive database and operates as an unprecedented extension of a campaign that never seems to end.

And if that circle of relationships isn't disconcerting enough, Fox News's Catherine Herridge presented a special report on June 7 titled "Inside the World of Big Data and Big-time Politics" that noted the interesting connections of Google chairman Eric Schmidt and the Obama White House.  According to a recent article in Businessweek, Schmidt, who was actually in the Obama campaign "boiler room" on election night, has invested millions in a new firm, Civis Analytics, staffed by former OFA team members.  The firm is expected to "work for Democrat campaigns, and only Democrats -- next year." Justin Brookman of the Center of Democracy and Technology observed the potential for political targeting and "data mining of political opponents."  Jim Harper of the Cato Institute expressed concerns for the potential "hand-over of data" to "a political operation or to the government." 

With the news that Obama has overseen the NSA's secret collection of a huge database of information, while at the same time maintaining "close ties" to other organizations that operate massive databases dedicated to promoting his own policies, we should be alarmed at the potential such relationships could provide.  Did we see but a hint of that potential in the recent actions of the IRS?

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