Working paper

Going Private: Presidential Grassroots Lobbying Organizations, Targeted Appeals, and Neighborhood Persuasion Campaigns

Jonathan Klingler


Abstract: The Bush and Obama administrations have added to their capacity to make public appeals by creating grassroots lobbying organizations with the expressed purpose of mobilizing supporters to pressure Congress to pass presidential policy priorities. This paper advances the study of organizations like Organizing for Action by examining their ability to make targeted appeals to the primary electorate of the president's party as well as orchestrate mass persuasion campaigns. Furthermore, this paper incorporates the capacity which these organizations may contribute to winning future elections. I present a model which suggests that, when the utility of winning the next election is reduced under divided government, the eff orts of presidential grassroots lobbying organizations will be more strongly oriented toward mass persuasion. The model also suggests that, with some additional considerations, targeted partisan appeals will be optimal under uni ed government and mass persuasion will be optimal under divided government. I find empirical support for the fi rst two claims in data obtained from emails sent by Organizing for America/Organizing for Action since its creation in early 2009.


presidential lobbying; grassroots lobbying; OFA; presidential grassroots lobbying organizations; Congress; presidency; lobbying;

Published in

IAST working paper, n. 14-13, 2014