February 7th, 2012
12:29 AM ET
11 years ago

Obama campaign to support super PAC fundraising

(CNN) - In a change of position, Barack Obama's reelection campaign will begin using administration and campaign aides to fundraise for Priorities USA Action, a super PAC backing the president.

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 Priorities USA Action.

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But in the wake of the group's anemic fundraising, made public last week, the campaign decided to change its position, and announced the new stance to members of its national finance committee Monday evening.

Two Obama campaign aides confirmed that senior campaign and administration officials who participate at fundraising events for the president's campaign will also appear at events for Priorities USA Action, the PAC supporting Obama.

"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."

The president, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden will not appear at super PAC events, the aides said.

In an e-mail to supporters, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said the decision was a reaction to massive fundraising posted by super PACs supporting GOP presidential candidates.

"The campaign has decided to do what we can, consistent with the law, to support Priorities USA in its effort to counter the weight of the GOP Super PACs," Messina wrote.

"We will do so only in the knowledge and with the expectation that all of its donations will be fully disclosed as required by law to the Federal Election Commission."

Messina was careful to point out the president's opposition to a Supreme Court ruling that sparked the onset of super PACs, noting the administration was still looking for ways to put limits on campaign spending.

"The President opposed the Citizens United decision," Messina wrote. "He understood that with the dramatic growth in opportunities to raise and spend unlimited special-interest money, we would see new strategies to hide it from public view.

“He continues to support a law to force full disclosure of all funding intended to influence our elections, a reform that was blocked in 2010 by a unanimous Republican filibuster in the U.S. Senate. And the President favors action - by constitutional amendment, if necessary - to place reasonable limits on all such spending.”

Priorities USA Action posted receipts of $4.4 million through December 31, 2011, compared to the more than $30 million reported by Restore our Future, a super PAC supporting former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

In an e-mail blast, Jonathan Collegio, spokesman for the conservative groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, called the Obama campaign's move a "brazenly cynical" reversal for a president who just two years ago called spending by these outside groups a threat to democracy.

Collegio highlighted a quote from an October 2010 rally in Philadelphia, when the New York Times quoted Obama as saying, "You don’t know, it could be the oil industry, it could be the insurance industry, it could even be foreign-owned corporations. You don’t know because they don’t have to disclose. Now that’s not just a threat to Democrats, that’s a threat to our democracy."

American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS plan to raise $300 million to help defeat Obama and his agenda in November.

Mitt Romney's super PAC reported raising $30 million in 2011, the vast majority of which was spent on negative advertising.

Also see:

Nevada runners up, Paul and Santorum vow to continue campaigns

Obama: Israel undecided on attack against Iran

Gingrich outlines a Southern revival strategy

Ohio newspaper endorses Romney

Filed under: 2012 • President Obama • Priorities USA
soundoff (86 Responses)
  1. Ben

    So he was a critic until they became convenient for him? Sounds like any politician. Once again we see that "Hope and Change" is really just "Business as Usual".

    February 7, 2012 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  2. woodofpine

    Hey – you have to play the game as it exists – not as you'd like it to exist! We all know the GOP will play from the gutter (birther, etc.) so Obama has to at least work funding as aggressively as them. If the world of political influence was administered morally combat vet vote winner Gore would've been president on 9/11 rather than the swagger man.

    February 7, 2012 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  3. mike

    It's gonna be a DIRTY campaign, you gotta do what you gotta do... Any conservatives who denounce this are major hypocrites.

    February 7, 2012 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  4. iadadman

    And his opponents will hammer him for this. But that amounts to someone bringing a baseball bat to a boxing match and then complaining when the other guy picks up his own bat.

    "But you said you didn't think we should use bats!"

    February 7, 2012 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  5. gwedwards

    Any surprise here? If it benefits him in an election, he quickly abandons his stance – whether it's Super PACs, accepting federal matching funds, or impossible to disown Rev Wright.

    February 7, 2012 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  6. frank

    So he is selling out just like all the others. Disappointing Obama, just like the rest of your administration. What you could have been for this country with the right people advising you...

    February 7, 2012 08:13 am at 8:13 am |
  7. john

    What a mess we have made of the election process!!

    February 7, 2012 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  8. Steve

    Can't say that I blame him. It would be like going into a gun fight with a knife if he didn't play that same stupid super-pac game. I guess that we have to let big businesses buy our candidates before we get to vote for them.

    February 7, 2012 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  9. JB

    LOL, true to form, he'll compromise his ethics in a skinny minute. He was against super PACS when he was ahead in donations, but when he gets behind he's willing to use them.

    February 7, 2012 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  10. manandwife

    no obama!! say it ain't so!

    February 7, 2012 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  11. Steve-Illinois

    He's against it, until he needs it, then he's for it. Anything to get re-elected!

    February 7, 2012 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  12. NothingsNew

    The difference between GOP and DEM's are obvious by their support groups:

    In 2011, the Super PAC supporting Mitt Romney raised $30 million from fewer than 200 contributors. Ninety-six percent of what they've spent so far, more than $18 million, has been on attack ads. The main engine of Romney's campaign has an average contribution of roughly $150,000.

    Obama's average donation is $55, and 98 percent are $250 or less.

    February 7, 2012 08:20 am at 8:20 am |
  13. IggyDad

    Yet another consequence of the The GOP-constructed Supreme Court. Their decisions will continue to please their corporate clients, while weakening our democracy for decades to come. Wow, what a legacy they left us, and our children, and grandchildren...

    February 7, 2012 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  14. J

    It's unfortunate that the President has to use Super-PACS, but I guess it's either that, or get bulldozed by the Republican Super-PACS in the fall...OBAMA/BIDEN, 2012!

    February 7, 2012 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  15. Charlie

    Imagine that!!! Sort of like saying take corporations out of the government but leave the special interest. Eliminate both.

    February 7, 2012 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  16. Joe T.

    That's hilarious...

    February 7, 2012 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  17. Christopher

    Were Obama to take the "high road" on this issue, he would just get buried by corporate funded PAC ads. Our conservative Supreme Court opened this flood gate!

    February 7, 2012 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  18. Aaron

    As a avid supporter of the President, I'm pretty disappointed in this decision. This just proves he's just another politician looking to get reelected.

    February 7, 2012 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  19. Justin

    I think this is great! If the Republicans are doing it the Democrats need to be ready.

    February 7, 2012 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  20. expakistani

    Does this man have any core values? His words mean nothing to him.

    February 7, 2012 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  21. notbobslc

    Of course he reversed his position, he reached a point where he can no longer pretend to be the friend of the pople and has to show his true colors as a politician. Very typical to lose all sense of principle when it comes to campaigining, Im sure many will say he was forced to do it and in some ways they are right but none the less he is still caving in and being just like those he has denounced for months, nothing surprising about that!

    February 7, 2012 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  22. Qev

    You've got to fight fire with fire.

    February 7, 2012 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  23. Pete

    Obama isn't John Kerry, he's not going to fall on his sword because he doesn't want to betray one principled stance. Yes, SuperPACs are basically the electoral devil incarnate, a huge blow to the will of the people controlling the conversation in American politics at a time when the playing field was already massively tilted against that ideal. But a big part of being electable is dealing with reality, and the reality is that if you don't use the biggest club in the bag the opposition will be outhitting you with ease. Of course he has to use SuperPACs this election cycle, and here's hoping he can outlaw or at least neuter them before the next. What a sad, bought and paid for elections process we have right now. If there's one thing we ought to socialize in this country (besides medicine, like the rest of the civilized world), this is it.

    February 7, 2012 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  24. Lenny

    Really? Did anyone for a second think that he was actually against the campaign finance system that bought him an election in 2008?

    February 7, 2012 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  25. mfx3

    Nothing like abandoning your convictions and core values come election season. The GOP's been doing it for months now, I guess it's time for Obama to follow suit.

    February 7, 2012 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
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