Despite having criticized the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling and the rise of Super PACs, President Obama’s re-election campaign has decided to fully endorse the use of their own allied Super PAC. From Jim Messina at the Obama campaign:
The President opposed the Citizens United decision. 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.
But this cycle, our campaign has to face the reality of the law as it currently stands.
Over the last few months, Super PACs affiliated with Republican presidential candidates have spent more than $40 million on television and radio, almost all of it for negative ads.
Last week, filings showed that the Super PAC affiliated with Mitt Romney’s campaign raised $30 million in 2011 from fewer than 200 contributors, most of them from the financial sector. Governor Romney personally helped raise money for this group, which is run by some of his closest allies.
Meanwhile, other Super PACs established for the sole purpose of defeating the President—along with “nonprofits” that also aren’t required to disclose the sources of their funding—have raised more than $50 million. In the aggregate, these groups are expected to spend half a billion dollars, above and beyond what the Republican nominee and party are expected to commit to try to defeat the President.
With so much at stake, we can’t allow for two sets of rules in this election whereby the Republican nominee is the beneficiary of unlimited spending and Democrats unilaterally disarm.
Therefore, 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 PAC. 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.
What this change means practically: Senior campaign officials as well as some White House and Cabinet officials will attend and speak at Priorities USA fundraising events. While campaign officials may be appearing at events to amplify our message, these folks won’t be soliciting contributions for Priorities USA. I should also note that the President, Vice President, and First Lady will not be a part of this effort; their political activity will remain focused on the President’s campaign.
Some may see this move as the height of hypocrisy, while others will see it as pragmatism forced on the Obama team when faced with the wave of Super PAC money the GOP is expected to unleash against him.
While it is nice that the President has at least used this moment to call for a constitutional amendment to address the influence of money in our politics, I found the claim that Obama really fought to weaken the power of big-money interests in politics pathetic. This is the same Barack Obama who become the first candidate in modern history to reject the Presidential Election Campaign Fund for the general election.
When the Supreme Court handed down its Citizens United ruling, Obama still had one of the largest Democratic majorities in Congress in decades. But Democrats still didn’t do anything about it. If they viewed that holding as truly critical, the Democrats could have passed a law addressing the issue. Passing legislation about campaign finance reform was simply not a priority for the Obama administration.