Obama Team Supports Super PAC to Compete with GOP Super PACs

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Obama Speaking during 2010 State of the Union Address
Source: White House, “State of the Union Speech,” www.whitehouse.gov, Jan. 27, 2010

Obama’s presidential campaign is now encouraging donors to support a super PAC called Priorities USA Action to help him win the 2012 election and help counter the super PACs that raised over $58 million dollars in 2011 to support Republican candidates.

On Feb. 6, 2012, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina stated that “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.” Obama will send surrogates from the White House, Cabinet, and his campaign to encourage support for the group, according to a Feb. 7, 2012 Businessweek article.

Super PACs, otherwise known as independent expenditure only committees, are political action committees (PACs) that can receive unlimited campaign contributions from corporations, unions, or individuals. Candidate campaign committees, however, are subject to donation limits. Super PACs are prohibited from directly coordinating with the candidates or political parties, and cannot donate directly to political candidates, unlike traditional PACs, which can make donations directly to a candidate campaign.

In 2011, Restore Our Future, a super PAC supporting Mitt Romney, raised $30.2 million, and American Crossroads, a conservative super PAC, raised over $18 million. The super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich, Winning our Future, raised $10 million. In 2011, Priorities USA Action raised $4.1 million in funds.

In his Jan. 27, 2010 State of the Union Address President Obama stated “last week the Supreme Court [in the Citizens United case] reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests… to spend without limit in our elections. I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests.”

Explaining the Obama campaign decision to encourage super PAC donations, Senior Campaign Strategist David Axelrod stated in a Feb. 7, 2012 interview with PBS journalist Judy Woodruff, “The president believes deeply that these super PACs are an unwelcome development in our politics and is going to continue to try and find ways to reform them… we simply couldn’t sit by and allow $500 million, $600 million, $700 million of negative ads be run against us, with no one on the other side responding.”

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton, criticized the Obama campaign decision stating: “The sad truth is Obama has never really occupied the high ground on campaign finance… Once president, he didn’t go to bat for a system of public financing that would have made it possible for candidates to raise enough money from small donors and matching public funds they wouldn’t need to rely on a few billionaires pumping unlimited sums into super PACS… And now he’s made a total mockery of the Court’s naïve belief that super PACs would remain separate from individual campaigns, by officially endorsing his own super PAC.”

In the 2012 Florida primary Romney’s campaign and the super PAC Restore Our Future spent $15.3 million. Gingrich’s campaign and the super PAC Winning our Future spent $3.4 million. Romney won the Florida primary with 46.4% of votes compared to Gingrich’s 31.9%.

The latest data from the Federal Elections Commission shows the five remaining Republican candidates (Gingrich, Paul, Roemer, Romney, and Santorum) have raised $98,252,290 cumulatively, while Democratic President Barack Obama has raised $128,353,560 million, and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson has raised $578,125.


Alexander Burns, “Gingrich Forces Outspent by Nearly $12 Million on Florida Airwaves,” www.politico.com, Jan. 29, 2012

Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President in State of Union Address,” www.whitehouse.gov, Jan. 27, 2010

Henry D’Andrea, “Mitt Romney’s Liberal Campaigning Tactics,” www.washingtontimes.com, Feb. 3, 2012

Julianna Goldman, “Obama Encouraging Donors to Give Super-PAC Backing Him,” www.businessweek.com, Feb. 8, 2012

PBS News Hour, “Axelrod on Pro-Obama Super PAC: ‘We Simply Couldn’t Sit by,’” www.pbs.org (accessed Feb. 9, 2012)

Robert Reich, “The Sad Spectacle of Obama’s Super PAC,” www.huffingtonpost.com, Feb. 8, 2012

Shira Schoenberg, “Pro-Obama Super PAC Trails GOP Groups in Funds,” www.bostonglobe.com, Feb. 3, 2011