09/05/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

White House Has Not Told Progressive Groups To Stop Targeting Dems

Despite telling Democratic senators that he didn't approve of the ads being run by left-wing groups against members of their own party, Barack Obama has not taken back-channel action to stop a coalition of the groups from airing their spots.

Officials at the two progressive organizations, Democracy for America and Progressive Change Campaign Committee, tell the Huffington Post that they have not heard from the White House about the president's discontent with the ads.

"We have never been contacted by the White House and asked to stop or lighten up or change our campaigns in any way," said Charles Chamberlain, political director at DFA.

Adam Green, co-founder of PCCC, similarly said he had not heard from the administration about the issue.

During a lunch meeting on Tuesday, Obama told Senate Democrats that he "wished left-wing groups would back off" targeting members of their own party on health care reform. It was the second time that the president had expressed this sentiment in private, only to have it reported in public.

Not surprisingly, one of the main target of those ads, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), hailed the president's remarks in a statement to the New York Times. Nelson's critics pledged to keep the ads running in his state.

"Since they are obviously working, we guess it's time to increase our ad buy a second time, shaming Nelson for putting his out-of-state insurance contributors ahead of his own constituents," said Green.

The pressure on Democratic lawmakers from progressive organizations has increased in recent weeks as the party has grown increasingly split on health care reform. The groups leading the charge have been PCCC, DFA, and MoveOn.org, which did not return request for comment for this article.

That Obama would criticize this advertising tactic without taking serious action to actually stop it speaks to the strategy that the White House feels it must pursue. Publicly, the administration is siding with the lawmakers who actually cast votes. But its not working too hard to cut off the pressure being applied to these senators to take more progressive positions.

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