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Liberal Groups Turn Their Ire Toward Obama

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MoveOn.org has become an expert noise-maker on behalf of liberal causes. But this week’s tax deal between President Barack Obama and Senate Republicans has the group charged up to protest the White House.

President Barack Obama’s tax cut deal drew protests Tuesday from progressive groups that have spent much of the first two years of the Obama presidency drumming up support for his initiatives such as health care and financial reform.

At the same time, it elicited rare praise from prominent business trade groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, that have aggressively opposed much of the president’s domestic agenda and helped finance GOP efforts to wins seats in Congress in the November elections.

For a deal that hasn’t even reached a floor vote in either chamber, the impact was immediate.

At issue for many liberal groups was the extension of the tax cuts for all wage earners as well as the $5 million individual threshold for the estate tax. They complained about Obama retreating on a campaign promise to allow tax cuts for the wealthy to lapse. They said he was too easily steamrolled by the Republicans even though they will not take over control of the House until next year.

“Watching the tax cut negotiation has been like watching a car crash in slow motion,” Justin Ruben, executive director of MoveOn.org, said in a statement. “The president’s commitment to bipartisanship should not mean leaving principles behind.”

The liberal group has been pressing its members to call lawmakers to oppose the deal. It also coordinated protests Tuesday outside the state offices of Republican Senators from Texas, Illinois and Massachusetts who voted to extend all the tax cuts Saturday.

On Monday, as the White House worked on an agreement in private, liberal donors tied up direct phone lines to senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett after they were urged to do so by the Agenda Project, a New York group headed by political strategist Erica Payne.

Payne said many members of her group are Democratic donors who are increasingly reaching the conclusion that Obama is capitulating to Republicans.

“People are off the reservation about it,” she said.

Payne said she received an e-mail from an economist who called the tax compromise “a terrible deal.”

“If Obama signs onto it he might as well start packing his bags,” the e-mail said. Another e-mail, she said, came from a hedge fund millionaire who complained that the Democrats “hold all the cards but are getting rolled by the Republicans.”

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