Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 12, 2016

‘Grass-Roots’ OFA Snags First Million-Dollar Donor

White House officials like to trumpet Organizing for Action as a “grass-roots-funded organization,” but the six-figure donors to President Barack Obama’s tax-exempt advocacy group keep adding up, and it just snagged its first million-dollar contributor.

Hedge fund founder and biotechnology entrepreneur David Shaw became the first OFA donor to clear $1 million, thanks to his $500,000 contribution to the organization in the first quarter of this year. Other top donors include author and philanthropist Amy Goldman Fowler, who’s given $750,000 since OFA’s inception in January of last year, and Fred Eychaner, president of News Web Corp., who gave $500,000 to help get the group off the ground.

More than half of OFA’s $32 million in receipts so far still come from small donors of $250 or less. In this quarter, OFA collected $5.9 million from 124,000 donors and the average contribution was $38.68, officials announced. Still, close to two dozen high-dollar donors have now given $100,000 or more. The top 10 donors have contributed $3.9 million collectively so far.

This inner circle includes such top Obama presidential campaign bundlers as Eychaner and Shaw, along with Wall Street investors, CEOs and executives in the real estate, entertainment, pharmaceutical and insurance industries. Ten donors have given $200,000 or more, including California philanthropist John Goldman; Utah venture capitalist Ryan Smith; New York City philanthropist and composer Philip Munger, and investor Mark Gallogly.

Obama administration officials have rejected suggestions that six-figure donors enjoy special access to the White House, and have ignored calls from watchdogs that Obama shut the group down.

As a tax-exempt advocacy group barred from spending most of its money on politics, OFA has also ignored complaints from congressional Democrats that it’s sitting out  elections. The group has focused instead on the president’s policy agenda, including promoting enrollment in the Affordable Care Act, and advocating for immigration and gun safety legislation.

OFA takes no lobbyist or corporate money and voluntarily discloses donors of $250 or more every quarter. Shaw, OFA’s first million-dollar contributor, is worth $3.5 billion, according to Forbes magazine, and has served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology under both Bill Clinton and Obama. OFA’s top 10 donors are:

  1. David Shaw, co-founder D.E. Shaw: $1 million
  2. Amy Goldman Fowler, New York author and philanthropist: $750,000
  3. Fred Eychaner, president, News Web Corp., Chicago, Ill.: $500,000
  4. Ryan Smith, Salt Lake City, Utah, venture capitalist: $351,260
  5. Philip Munger, New York City philanthropist: $250,000
  6. John Goldman, Atherton, Calif., philanthropist: $225,000
  7. Mark Gallogly, co-founder, Centerbridge Partners: $200,000
  8. Kenneth Levine, senior vice president, McAfee: $200,000
  9. Olan Mills II, chairman emeritus, Olan Mills, Inc.: $200,000
  10. Jon Stryker, New York City architect, philanthropist: $200,000
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