Advocacy Group Born Out of the Obama Campaign, OFA, Hires Digital Director

Obama Campaign's Email Director Steps Into Top Role

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Organizing for Action, the non-profit entity hatched out of President Obama's campaign organization, has hired a new digital director whose team will manage two powerful assets held over from the election: its vast email list and the 28-million-followers-strong @BarackObama Twitter account.

OFA's digital director Toby Fallsgraff
OFA's digital director Toby Fallsgraff

Toby Fallsgraff was the Obama campaign's email director, overseeing a team of 18 writers and strategists. The team was known for issuing messages from high-profile "senders" like Beyonce Knowles and Bill Clinton and rigorously testing and optimizing email copy and subject lines for a variety of audience segments, which generated hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign donations. (In the end, the most lucrative subject line out of the hundreds used was "Hey," according to Bloomberg Businessweek.)

OFA is unprecedented in that it's a presidential campaign reincarnated into a tax-exempt 501(c)(4) "social welfare group", though with some of the campaign's key assets still in place. Its stated mission is furthering the president's agenda in areas like gun control, climate change and immigration, though it won't do any electoral work.

In recent weeks, OFA has been mobilizing around the sequester, looking to enlist the public in President Obama's battle with Republican lawmakers using tools that were honed during the campaign. One email sent to this reporter prior to the start of automatic across-the-board spending cuts had the subject line "How the sequester affects Marjorie" and places the blame on congressional Republicans for their refusal to compromise. Meanwhile, the @BarackObama account is full of tweets backing the president's proposal to require mandatory background checks for all gun sales (with the hashtag #WeDemandAVote.)

However, the organization's close alignment with the White House has come under scrutiny since it formally launched in January. In response to criticism that OFA would be charging donors for access to the president, OFA chairman and former Obama campaign manager Jim Messina wrote last week that the group wouldn't accept corporate money and would disclose donors giving $250 or more on a quarterly basis.

Mr. Fallsgraff is still based in Chicago and currently oversees a staff of 12, though he expects it to grow to as big as 40 or 50 eventually. Digital ads will eventually also be part of the mix, he said.

At the height of the presidential campaign, the Obama for America digital team under Teddy Goff was more than 200 strong.

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