In Reversal, Obama Campaign Endorses Super PAC Efforts on His Behalf
The Obama campaign will signal to donors that they endorse funding of SuperPACs, which some see as a backslide on campaign finance principles but which senior campaign officials characterized as “a reflection of the law as it currently stands.”
The campaign will support Priorities USA, a PAC designed to support the President’s re-election campaign. Cabinet officials and senior advisers will speak at Priorities USA fundraising events in the coming weeks.
“We’re not going to fight this fight with one hand tied behind our back,” Jim Messina, the manager of Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign, said in an interview. “With so much at stake, we can’t allow for two sets of rules. Democrats can’t be unilaterally disarmed.”
Neither the president, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., nor their wives will attend fund-raising events or solicit donations for the Democratic group. A handful of officials from the administration and the campaign will appear on behalf of Mr. Obama, aides said, but will not directly ask for money.
David Axelrod defended the decision today, arguing that Republicans have spent millions of dollars on SuperPAC ads through the primaries and clearly would in the general election. Axelrod told MSNBC, “This doesn’t mean that we believe this is the best way for the system to function. The president’s going to continue to fight for ways to reform that system in the future, but that’s not going to happen in this campaign, and we have to live in the world as it is, not as we want it to be.”
The fact that a campaign can endorse the efforts of a SuperPAC that supposedly works independently of the candidate tells you how broken the system truly is. But the Washington Post characterizes this as a “clear political risk” for the President, and I really don’t think so. Obama opted out of the Presidential public funding system in 2008 after making the same stands on campaign finance reform, and no voter really seemed to care. I don’t think any voter expects universal disarmament as a part of principle. If the economy improves, a broken promise on SuperPACs will play almost no role.
In fact, the real news coming out of this, Andy Kroll points out, is that the President now may support a constitutional amendment on money in politics:
What’s more, Obama and Congressional Democrats support reforms to eviscerate super-PACs and limit the ability of corporations and unions to spend general treasury money on elections. Those reforms included the DISCLOSE Act, a piece of legislation intended to counteract the effects of Citizens United which was killed by Senate Republicans in 2010. And as Obama campaign manager Jim Messina pointed out, the president continues to back not only new legislation casting more light on money in politics, but also a constitutional amendment to boost regulation of all that money sloshing around our elections.
On a conference call, senior campaign officials said that the President remains committed to reforming the campaign finance system. “He supports reform efforts, he supports the Disclose act, and should a constitutional amendment be necessary to reverse the worst aspects of the Citizens United decision, he would support those efforts,” said a senior campaign official. “Republicans in Congress steadfastly opposed even disclosure legislation. They’re not going to support a constitutional amendment. We are recognizing the changed political reality under the law as it stands. To change that we’re going to have to elect a Democratic majority in Congress.”