Washington (CNN) – According to several participants on a conference call with major bundlers late Monday night, Barack Obama’s re-election campaign encouraged donors to fundraise for a Democratic super PAC supporting the president, marking an about-face on Obama’s position toward outside spending groups.
Obama has been an outspoken critic of current campaign financing laws, in particular a Supreme Court ruling that allowed the creation of super PACs. Until now he has kept his distance from the group, Priorities USA Action.
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But in the wake of the group's anemic fundraising, made public last week, the campaign changed its position. Earlier Monday, it announced to members of its national finance committee that it will use administration and campaign officials as surrogates at PAC events.
On the call, a campaign official made clear that after donors contribute the maximum amount allowed to the Obama campaign, fundraisers should encourage donors to give to Priorities USA, according to a source who was on the call.
"Bundlers" are fundraisers who solicit campaign contributions from their personal and business networks. The total raised is considered bundled through the individual.
Campaign officials gave guidance on practices and policies, stressing the importance that super PACs are legally prohibited from coordinating with campaigns.
Another bundler questioned the effectiveness of the new approach, explaining every large donor of means had already been approached for a donation by Priorities USA. This fundraiser said the campaign formally pulled back the curtain last night but most high-profile contributors had already been pressed in person to donate to the super PAC.
The source also said Priorities USA held its own cocktail party for heavy hitters at a national finance committee meeting six months ago.
"This decision was not made overnight," one campaign official said. "The money raised and spent by Republican super PACs is very telling. We will not unilaterally disarm."
Additional concern about Republican spending versus Democratic super PAC spending was expressed on the campaign call Monday night, underlining the group's need to turn up the pressure and meet its fundraising goals, a source said.
Through the third party groups, Democrats and Republicans can run negative ads without the candidates they support signing off at the end of the commercials, as they’re required to do in ads paid for by the campaigns.
Super PACs can put distance between the president and attacks on his Republican opponent. On Monday, senior administration officials reaffirmed that they believe the race will be close.
Parallels to the president’s change of heart on campaign finance were also seen in the last election cycle. In the 2008 race, he initially embraced public financing but became the first candidate to reject it. Obama then went on to make history raising $750 million for his campaign.
Since the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that paved the way for super PACs, Obama has been an outspoken critic of the effect they have on politics.
In October of that year, shortly before the mid-term elections, the president lambasted the role of outside spending groups, particularly those that are not required to disclose its donors.
"This isn't just a threat to Democrats," he said. "This is a threat to our democracy."
Some Republicans, meanwhile, have already hit back with charges of hypocrisy on the president's turnaround on the issue.
"Just another broken promise," House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday when asked about the change.
The conservative groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, which plan to raise $300 million to help defeat Obama and his agenda in November, also responded.
In an e-mail blast, Jonathan Collegio, the groups' spokesman, called the Obama campaign's move a "brazenly cynical" reversal.