New independent group has got Obama's back
April 29th, 2011
10:09 AM ET
12 years ago

New independent group has got Obama's back

Washington (CNN) - Saying it's time "fight back," Democrats with strong ties to President Barack Obama are unveiling a double-fisted fundraising push to counter an expected tidal wave of money from independent GOP-leaning groups in the 2012 battle for the White House.

Organizers say the two groups launched Friday, Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action, aim to raise a combined $100 million to defend the president from what they say will be a flood of attack ads from similar independent groups on the Republican side.

But the strategy of using unlimited and sometimes secret contributions is something that Obama opposed in the past.

"This is an effort to level the playing field. Americans deserve an honest debate about job creation, the economy, national security and education. That debate will never happen if only right wing extremists are engaged on the battlefield," says Sean Sweeney, one of the two organization's senior strategists.

Sweeney and Bill Burton, the groups' other senior strategist, recently departed the White House. Sweeney was a senior adviser to former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Burton was a deputy White House press secretary and before that national press secretary for Obama's presidential campaign.

"While we agree that fundamental campaign finance reforms are needed, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers cannot live by one set of rules as our values and our candidates are overrun with their hundreds of millions of dollars. We will follow the rules as the Supreme Court has laid them out, but the days of the double standard are over," Burton said.

Rove, the top political adviser to former President George W. Bush, was one of the founders last year of American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, along with former Republican National Committee chairmen Ed Gillespie and Mike Duncan. The two independent groups raised more than $70 million in last year's midterm elections and say their goal is to raise $120 million in the 2012 election cycle.

American Crossroads is a 527 organization that must disclose its donors. Crossroads GPS is a 501(c)(4) group, which is not required to disclose its contributors. Last year Democrats, including the president, criticized Crossroads' efforts for accepting funds from undisclosed donors.

Obama highlighted the issue on the campaign trail last fall. At a rally in Madison, Wisconsin last September, Obama said Republicans were being helped "by special interest groups that are allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money on attack ads. They don't even have to disclose who's behind the ads. You've all seen the ads. Every one of these groups is run by Republican operatives."

A few days later at a rally in Philadelphia he added that "the American people deserve to know who is trying to sway their elections."

A spokesman for American Crossroads says Friday's move makes the president a hypocrite.

"Obama's brazen hypocrisy, in encouraging his own operatives to start groups exactly like the ones he demagogued last year, shows how cynical this President can be when it comes to perpetuating his own power," American Crossroads communications director Jonathan Collegio tells CNN.

But the White House says they don't "control outside groups."

"These are not people working for the administration," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Friday, adding that "the president's position on disclosure remains the same."

Two top players who helped fund some of the Republican independent committees last year were Charles and David Koch, who own a large energy firm. Friday's press release from Priorities USA says "the Koch brothers have pledged to raise and spend $88 million over the course of the next two years."

Paul Begala, a top political adviser in the Clinton White House, who will serve as a senior strategist for Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action, said "It's time somebody decided to stand up and fight back."

"In 2010 progressives stood by and watched Karl Rove and the billionaire Koch brothers practice the politics of lie and buy, fear and smear. We're not going to let them get away with it any more. We are committed to defending the American middle class against the Rove-Koch assaults." Begala is also a CNN contributor.

The new groups are being set up in a similar fashion as the two Crossroads organizations, with Priorities USA is being organized as a 501(c)(4) group, which means it does not have to disclose the names of its donors. The new groups' launch was first reported by Politico.

The explosion of political ad spending by independent groups last year can be traced to a January 2010 Supreme Court decision. "Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission" allowed corporations and labor unions to make unlimited donations to some political groups, but continued to ban them from giving to candidates and party committees.

While Republican-leaning groups took the lead in last year's midterm contests, Democratic-leaning groups appear to be catching up this year, with the recent creation of organizations to help defend the party's Senate majority and to help try and recapture control of the House.

- Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @PsteinhauserCNN

Filed under: Democrats • Fundraising • President Obama
soundoff (33 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    I think this campaign will be one where Republican ads will only serve to remind the public of the misleading statements and promises they make. A point will be reached where Republican ads will do more harm than good to their image. The public is becoming more and more de-sensitized to the fear mongering and hate that comes from the right. More people can see just how transparent it is, especially after the sucker punch they pulled on the public after the 2010 Elections.

    April 29, 2011 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  2. Tired of the nonsense

    Keep the GOP out of Washington! They've done so much damage to this country and destroyed so much, they don't deserve another bite at the apple.

    April 29, 2011 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  3. Mollybee

    As soon as "Citizens United" changed the rules, the Republican Party went about it's union busting/anti-middle class campaign. As a Democrat, it's IMPERATIVE that our party meet Republican/Wall Street political attacks with equal force.

    April 29, 2011 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  4. david

    i like this very much!!! You know i get the feeling that all those seniors who never voted in 2008 will come out in droves this time to beat the GOP nominee!!! Seniors woked their entire live contributing to the greatness of this nation and the GOP while jeep their rich buddies rich have no problem robbing the seniors who toiled hard to make this country great! The GOP is Toast!!! Obama,Biden 2012!!!

    April 29, 2011 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  5. david

    Im so glad to be a Democrat!!! Common sense rules!!!

    April 29, 2011 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  6. Proud to be an Independent !

    I agree it's time for the Dem's to take off the gloves and fight fire with fire ! I know they are the sensible one's , but republican's play dirty and don't really care about getting caught in lie's ! The have gone against virtually every promise that they made before the 2010 election's and have gotten alot of people upset with them ! It shouldn't be hard for the Dem's to win , all they have to do is make their position's clear and point out the republican lie's !

    April 29, 2011 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  7. gt

    these groups are not new... they have just trade a new name for the same old brand...2 wars...9% unemplyed.... 5 dollar a gallon of these dont change wont matter how much advertisement there is....

    April 29, 2011 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  8. New Age Independant

    Personally, the overwhelming number of Independents that I speak with are those that have abandoned the Democrat party. The sheer hatred of the group has alienated them, to speak nothing of the ultra liberal influences that have made the party seem like a bunch of lunatics. It's hard for me to believe that Obama will receive the same Independent support as he did in the last election. His record speaks for itself, empty promises, corruption, and a complete failure of numerous policies can't be overshadowed by his eloquent speaking ability any longer. It's time for substance over style.

    April 29, 2011 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  9. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    "While we agree that fundamental campaign finance reforms are needed, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers cannot live by one set of rules as our values and our candidates are overrun with their hundreds of millions of dollars. We will follow the rules as the Supreme Court has laid them out, but the days of the double standard are over,"
    One of my biggest fears has been allayed, that being that the Obama campaign would take "too high a road".
    Fight fire with fire I say!
    Game on, and I'm IN!!!!!!!
    Obama 2012.

    April 29, 2011 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  10. MNBLUESs

    The GOP lose credibility daily. They are blowing smoke and pretty soon No one will be listening. After the birther
    reality punch, everything they say sounds like rubbish

    April 29, 2011 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  11. Tony

    Hypocrisy, Oh that is rich. Ok let’s talk hypocrisy at its finest

    "We're broke," Boehner recently told reporters. "It's time for us to get serious about how we're spending the nation's money."

    "Congressman Boehner intends to ask Secretary McHugh to review the Army's current plan to cut tank production and ask that the excessive costs of shutting down the Lima plant are considered," the speaker's office said.

    Boehner has been doing this for years. If it was so sad it would be funny.

    April 29, 2011 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  12. dan

    I think ALL the special interest ads on both sides blur the attempt to have an "honest debate" of the issues since they are designed to push theit own view, but for this group to be woriied about leveling the playing field with $100 million when Obama's fundraising goal is $1 Billion is comical. Obama raised $750 million the first time and now stated the goal was $1 Billion this time as well as having the advantage of being the incumbent. He and his supporters should have no fears of a level playing field.

    April 29, 2011 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  13. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Independent voters are smart and they are the last of the Middle Class and without them we have Aparthied being indoctrinated by the Republican party and they use their political power to enforce it. First Republicans flow the money to the rich, second they get rid of the Middle Class by getting rid of unions and jobs, then they go after the funding for seniors and the most vulunerable Americans a known practice of instituting Aparthied.

    April 29, 2011 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  14. haha

    Obviously the Reds are not happy about this. They accuse the president of being a "hypocrite". So he should just sit by while you vilify him and distort his image with hundreds of millions of dollars in negative ads like last years. He tried by just criticizing their deplorable move last year and what did it get him? Time to geve' em a taste of their own medicine. I hope the dems dwarf the repubs fund raising and make them think twice about campaign finance reform and make the conservative activists in the high court regret their decision.

    April 29, 2011 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  15. Intelligent Independent

    Personally, the overwhelming number of Independents with whom I speak are those who have abandoned the Republican party. The sheer hatred of the group has alienated them, to speack nothing of tgeir facist influences that has exposed the party for what they are. It's hard for me to believe that Koch and Rove will receive the same independent support as he did in they did in the last congressional election. Their record speaks for itself. Its time for knowledge over ignorance. It is time for patriotism over Republicanism.

    April 29, 2011 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  16. Rudy NYC

    Need a liberal talking point to counter "Grandma facing Death Panels", which she will do under the Ryan plan, anyway
    How about pointing that "Grandma is mad for grand baby's future."

    April 29, 2011 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  17. lena

    I have to say myself,"Who would listen to "Republican Mudslinging" in light of the past 4 months of nothing but Pure Bull Huckey? No job creation, Trump as their front runner,(unbelievable?) Crash Medicare and take your money,No Heath Insurance for Disabled and middle class,(definitely the poor and out of work) No more inspections of the FOOD we eat? Should I go on? I refuse to listen to any GOP trash? The Teaparty are not even worth a"Thought"

    April 29, 2011 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  18. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    It's truly astonishing that this utter failure of a President has any supporters left. Other than Obamacare, the only thing he's done in two years has been to waste amazing amounts of money, and Obamacare is crumbling fast. Why would even a Democrat donate money to this guy? It mystifies me...

    April 29, 2011 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  19. Windy Vincent

    As an african Canadian,i look up to this great nation to do the right thing when it come to politics and so on.Questioning your president to show his birth certificate like an illegal immigrant was a shame to your country,people and whatsoever you stand for.Am a conversative known in the USA as republican,if america can't get beyound the colour of man skin but preach human right in China and other parts of the world.Your kingdom is sure to fade soon and I hate to see that happen.

    April 29, 2011 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  20. Ramey

    I guess this group loves the hole Obama has dug is into and continues to dig. These are the continued themes of we hate corporate America crowd so they can take a flying leap. In the end you have to provide for your family and most people do not want scraps from the Federal Government – they want to do something meaningful with their life to earn a living. I cannot believe anyone would spend money to elect this sorry excuse for a President. He is a nice guy but as we know Bush is a nice guy and that does not make you a leader.

    April 29, 2011 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  21. DD

    I wonder if saying nothing in defense of a negative attack ad would be best.

    Some times silence is golden. Stick to addressing the issues at hand with ideas of solution. We want resolution, solution, accomplishment, results.

    Republicans are real good at saying allot of words with no action or meaning behind them other than dividing one through anger & misguidance. Getting a vote to count with proven accomplishment showing the world your vote really did make a difference to BETTER this country is far more satisfactory then voting for a bunch filled with hot air sitting on their behinds accomplishing nothing, all the way to their banks with YOUR money.

    We the people need to think for ourselves, to search out the facts, understand those facts and our needs, how they can be best implemented within OUR government to benefit all of us and decide through that process, not as a herd mentality according to TV commercials of hate, he said she said blown out of context with edited sentence and poorly set photo ops.

    Come on people, you have a brain, use it for once. Hasn't all you have been seeing the last 12 years or longer been ENOUGH bs!? I am totally disgusted with the whole 3 ring circus both parties are being a part of. Thanks to MEDIA. I will be watching allot of movies in 2012. Study up on the true facts of politics and the policies. Those who vote, deciding from who has the commercial making the most sense or better tone should stay under their rock.

    April 29, 2011 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  22. Tony

    I find it amazing how people think President = King and totally forget that there are 3 branches of government.
    I bought a house last year then lost my job and almost lost my home. I do not blame the President because I know that
    The President does not control gas prices, he cannot create jobs.
    I was able to keep my home because of this president.

    Congress and the laws that they pass have more influence over these things.

    My GOD someone below the poverty line paid more in taxes then GE a fortune 500 company.
    Why because of the laws that Congress passed.

    YES President Obama has my support and also has my vote and I will be giving him more than $5

    April 29, 2011 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  23. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    It would be nice if everyone discloses who funds them so that we know where the money is coming from. A full disclosure is important so we know neither group is getting foreign investment. It is a shame that we have candidates that need to raise money to run for office. If there was no need, then we might have more worthy candidates.

    April 29, 2011 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  24. fayse

    to Henry Miller, Why is it astonishing? Many,Many,many people who can think for themselves are behind the President all the way. The great majority of sane human beings do not get their information or talking points from Fox news and Rush Limbaugh. The GOP has been tripping all over themselves to squash and "spin" this birther nonsense. If Trump is the best that they can do then, the GOP has nothing, no platform (other than hateful lies) no viable candidate, No jobs conversation and no class. They are obstructing and sabotaging the future of America.

    April 29, 2011 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  25. SAY WHAT!!!

    I think this guy is teaming with Obama. This is how it works – right now in the primaries this guy will break up the Republican base. If he wins then it will result in a landslide win for Obama. If he loses he will run as an Independent and take votes away from the Republican nominee. This is politics at its best.

    April 29, 2011 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
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