February 7th, 2012
09:49 AM ET
2 years ago

Update: Fundraisers encouraged to raise for PACs Obama once denounced

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.

Also see:

Obama campaign to support super PAC fundraising

Romney says Obama infringing upon religious rights

Biden's 2012 message: 'Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive'

Rocky Mountain High expectations


Filed under: 2012 • Fundraising • President Obama • Priorities USA
soundoff (183 Responses)
  1. Bill from Jersey

    Unfortunately this is just the latest example of Obama doing a complete turnaround on one of his major campaigning points and election promises. The last election was fueled in large part by the perception that was created about him being a "grass roots" candidate. This is about the furthest thing from it... What I especially like is that not only are his administration and campaign staff going to be working for the PAC, but that they are also instructing Obama donors that they should direct contributions to the PAC if they have already hit the maximum contribution allowed to Obama directly. Of course, then the PAC can give the funds to Obama themselves... Furthermore, the PAC is allowed to make negative statements about other candidates with out Obama himself needing to sign off or acknowledge being associated with it.

    At the same time, Obama's officals are quick to point out that "PACs are legally prohibited from coordinating with campaigns." Sounds like an awful lot of coordinating going on here.

    Yes, his administration is pointing out that this change in stance is related to the Republicans earning a lot of contributions. But this is the ultimate in hypocrisy for a guy who has spent a lot of time ranting about the political machine and the problems of our government system. He has drummed up a lot of support for himself over time with that platform, now he's looking to that same machine to keep him in office. Seems eerily similar to his denouncement of lobbyists and how he avoids them, then waiting a couple years (to let people forget) and then putting them into his administration...

    February 7, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  2. Workhard03

    Chicago politics at its best. This guy is a snake oil salesman! Time to wake up America. We need a new direction in Washington. The last two didn't work.

    February 7, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  3. kd

    It's hard not to raise money this way when the Republicans do. That's an advantage that needs to be equalled. Sadly, it's the noise that wins out over the truth. The Republicans prove that time and again.

    February 7, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  4. Robert

    I don't blame him. SuperPACs are like nuclear bombs: when one side gets one, the other side also has to get one, otherwise, the side without one is screwed. Prior to Citizens United, our electoral system was already obscene with big money. Citizens United merely escalated an already out-of-control electoral Arms Race. What needs to happen is BOTH parties need to agree to de-escalate the influence of money. Sadly, I don't see this happening. Change has to come from the People bypassing both parties.

    February 7, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  5. Cole

    Just lost my support

    February 7, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  6. Workhard03

    He will just say anything to win!

    February 7, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  7. TStreet

    Another hypocritical move by Obama. I'll never understand how anyone can continue to support him. If there was ever a president who has failed the American people it is Obama; he certainly doesn't deserve consideration for a second term.

    February 7, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  8. BD70

    What choice does the president have? He can't compete with the super PACs unless he uses them to. Until the court ruling that corporations are people is overturned this is how it will be.

    February 7, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  9. Rob

    Faux news is labeling him a flip flopper and is endorsing Mit Romney...The irony.....

    February 7, 2012 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  10. jim

    Practicality won out over idealism. I can't say I'm terribly surprised or disappointed.

    February 7, 2012 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  11. 2loose2trek

    Going up against the GOP Super PAC's without your own, is like carrying a knife to a gun-fight. All had the chance to disavow theswe, but chose not to. It's the voter that suffers through the campaign lies. (from both parties) We have the worst form of government imaginable. (except for all of the others)

    February 7, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  12. Tim Parker

    Unfortunately, there are still some of us who are hypnotized by Obama’s 2008 “enough is enough” and “hope & change” message. It is natural for people in despair to want to believe things will get better (that’s why man invented religion). Take Clint Eastwood’s “It’s halftime, America” ad for example. I’m afraid it is all Horatio Alger nonsense. Nothing short of a revolution will reverse our decline.

    February 7, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  13. Obama the Hypocrite

    Just like he changed his mind on ending tax cuts for the wealthy.

    February 7, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  14. ganan

    So what else is new, if it benefits him, he flip flops. Time for him to move out.

    February 7, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  15. Uri Tahrdud

    Just another reminder that no matter what party a politician belongs to... A politician is still a politician.

    February 7, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  16. John

    Another nail in the coffin... 348 days to go.

    February 7, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  17. The Truth Is

    Let's imagine that you are stuck on a desert island arguing against all of the food for you and your small band of companions being stored at the top of a mountain because a few of the people in the group have no legs. Eventually you will need to eat and you will need to climb the mountain regardless. That's not being a hypocrite, that's survival. He can either play the game or lose to corruption (yeah, i already know the response to that remark).

    February 7, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  18. Bob

    Yep. They are all alike. Rich. whatever it takes to raise money. Obama caves in for the sake of.....money. When it comes to the dollar....their dollar not yours, the stinking politicians are all the very same.

    February 7, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  19. andyoo

    all the evil are good when they are on your own side.....

    February 7, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  20. IntlPol101

    I do believe that the President is undermining his credibility.

    February 7, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  21. Anonymous

    Why don't you report how much money the GOP candidate's have brought in and spent, and also what we know about who is behind the Romney super-PAC fund? C'mon CNN, do your job, don't just be a tool for the GOP

    February 7, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  22. Agnim

    Does, CORRECTLY denouncing super pac means that one should 'unilaterally disarm' against those who wrongly favor super pac? NO!
    It is only a fool who would allow his enemy to be better armed, when it does not have to be the case.

    Obama is DEMONSTRATING THE WISDOM that is expected of a national leader: Keep ALL options on the table!
    If the enemy is inclined to go nuclear with pacs, then it would be stupid to bring conventional weapons to a nuke fight.

    The US mis-educational system is so terrible; it is hard to find media people who are not undereducated morons.

    February 7, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  23. Joycelyn

    why shouldn't he? The repugs will 'damage' him if he dosen't get a super pac of his own. Decmocrats should stop playing nice and stand up to the repugs. The difference though should be that the democrats to go hard on the facts and the acheivements of Mr. Obama and I bet that will sell more than the lies the repugs will tell.

    February 7, 2012 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  24. hih

    what a shocker

    February 7, 2012 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  25. jmiller

    No one cares what Boehner thinks about anything. His conservatives wanted unlimited spending, they got what they wished for. Grow up.

    February 7, 2012 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
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