Chris Cillizza (WaPo-The Fix):
A new 73-page report penned by liberal commentator Ari Melber for the techPresident Web site offers a detailed examination of Organizing for America, the grassroots arm of the Democratic National Committee. OFA, created after the 2008 campaign in an attempt to transfer the grassroots energy of the campaign into a tool to push the president's policy agenda, has largely operated in a low-key manner with its successes (and failures) cloaked within the broader DNC operation. Melber's report, which is the result of dozens of interviews with congressional staff, former Obama campaign staff and activists on the OFA list, provided decidedly mixed reviews for the organization. While noting that OFA "successfully mobilized and sustained a new corps of super activists" between in its first year, Melber concludes that the actual legislative impact of this activity was minimal. "Congressional aides do not think OFA is changing Members' votes," he writes. "Aides in both parties say OFA has mobilized constituent lobbying but do not say that OFA is a major or powerful force on Capitol Hill." That perceived lack of influence in effecting legislation may well be the result, as Melber's report reveals, of OFA spending most of its time in its first year of existence on "supporting and thanking allies than targeting holdouts in Congress." That, to our mind, is the central dilemma of OFA that remains unresolved. Can a party committee -- or an organization that lives within a party committee -- do the sort of pressuring of its own members in the way that a Moveon.org on the left or a Club for Growth on the right can? And, if not, how can the organization hope to influence members on legislation given that pressure applied hard and often is the only demonstrated way of changing or making up minds? ALSO READ: OFA deputy director Jeremy Bird's defense of the group's work.Howie P.S.: Ari has now made the transition from "Democratic strategist" to "liberal commentator," apparently.