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New group seeks to ‘strengthen progressive movement’

Two top political consultants to President Obama are forming a public advocacy group funded by donations from wealthy individuals and corporations.Charles Dharapak/AP/file

WASHINGTON — Two top political consultants to President Obama are forming a public advocacy group funded by donations from wealthy individuals and corporations. It is aimed at making political and legislative changes at the federal and state levels.

The Organizing for Action says it will be nonpartisan and steer clear of election activity, although the line between issue disputes and electoral politics can be fuzzy. The first of an expected wave of ads on gun control, for example, has targeted only Republicans.

And board member Jim Messina, who managed Obama’s reelection campaign, has been talking with Democratic Party leaders, including those responsible for success in the 2014 midterm elections.


Over the past month, Messina and Jon Carson, a leading strategist, have traveled the country meeting with members of the Obama 2012 National Finance Committee, who are being pressed back to work to find support for the new organization.

In huddles with Hollywood studio executives, California energy investors, and Chicago business titans, they have suggested that $500,000 be a target level for bundlers and that top donors get invitations to quarterly board meetings attended by the president.

The next step in converting Obama’s election apparatus to grass-roots lobbying is a ‘‘founders summit’’ March 13 that includes a $50,000-per-person meeting in Washington. Those planning to attend said they hope the president will be part of the agenda.

A memo accompanying the invitation says the goals of the group include building grass-roots support for Obama proposals on issues ranging from climate change to immigration reform to women’s health.

In addition, it says, the group will help ‘‘strengthen the progressive movement and train our next generation of leaders.’’ — WASHINGTON POST

Proposed online voting worries some in Maryland

WASHINGTON — A controversial change in Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley’s otherwise popular bill to expand early voting could lead to voter fraud and expose the state’s elections to cybersecurity threats, according to a voting group and election technologists.


The provision, sought for more than a year by the State Board of Elections, would allow Marylanders to receive a password by e-mail that allows them to download and mark a ballot at home before mailing it back to elections officials.

The problem, critics warn, is that the system lacks basic protections and there would be no signature verification or other means to ensure that the person for whom the ballot is intended is actually the person who casts it.

Specialists have also warned that the proposed delivery system could be hacked on a massive scale because of a second vulnerability. Maryland residents can register to vote online with a driver’s license number.

But in Maryland, that number is based on a resident’s name and birth date, which can be found online.

Rebecca Wilson, codirector of the nonprofit SAVE Our Votes, testified before state lawmakers that any hacker who pays $125 for Maryland’s publicly available database of voter records and who is adept at scouring social media sites for birthdays could easily assume voters’ identities.

Ross Goldstein, deputy administrator of the elections board, acknowledged the vulnerability. But he said the board was monitoring the system for suspicious behavior and in coming months would begin requiring registrants to answer additional questions to confirm their identities. — WASHINGTON POST

First postelection interview by Romney given to Fox

NEW YORK — Chris Wallace of Fox News has landed the first postelection interview with defeated Republican nominee Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann.


Wallace said Sunday that the interview will air on his show next week. Additional portions will be shown on Fox News Channel the next day. Wallace says he will ask Romney how he has dealt with the defeat, what he plans to do, and his thoughts about President Obama’s second-term agenda.

The interview will be taped this week in Southern California, where Romney has spent much of his time since the election. — ASSOCIATED PRESS