Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Obama Draws Fire on a 'Super PAC'

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Obama Draws Fire on a 'Super PAC'

Article excerpt

Aides for Barack Obama said that the president could not afford to "unilaterally disarm" in the face of money pouring into Republican fund-raising groups.

Republicans on Tuesday sharply criticized President Barack Obama's decision to encourage wealthy Democratic donors to start contributing to an outside group supporting his re-election, reversing a long-held position as he confronts a deep financial disadvantage on a vital front in the campaign.

Aides said the president had signed off on a plan to send cabinet officials, senior advisers and top campaign staff members to deliver speeches on behalf of Mr. Obama at fund-raising events for Priorities USA Action, the leading Democratic "super PAC," whose fund-raising has been dwarfed by Republican groups. They said he could not afford to "unilaterally disarm."

Super PACs have flourished since a 2010 Supreme Court ruling made it easier for outside groups to raise unlimited donations to promote candidates, so long as they do not coordinate with the candidates.

The new Obama policy was presented to the campaign's National Finance Committee on Monday.

"We were faced with the situation as to whether or not we could afford to play by two sets of rules, and obviously the answer is no," David Axelrod, the senior political strategist for Mr. Obama, said Tuesday on MSNBC.

But, he added, "That doesn't mean that we believe this is the best way for the system to function."

With its new policy, the Obama campaign is embracing an aspect of the new super PAC era that has brought particularly loud objections from those seeking to diminish the influence of moneyed interests in Washington, a group that had included Mr. Obama.

The Republican National Committee sharply criticized the decision, though Republican presidential candidates are benefiting extensively from super PAC support. A spokesman, Joe Pounder, said: "Yet again, Barack Obama has proven he will literally do anything to win an election, including changing positions on the type of campaign spending he called nothing short of 'a threat to our democracy."'

The conservative Drudge Report Web site described the shift as an Obama "U-Turn" in the main headline on its home page.

Neither the president, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., nor their wives will attend fund-raising events or solicit donations for the Democratic group, but several members of his White House inner circle and Chicago campaign headquarters will deliver speeches meant to imply his blessing.

The decision, announced nine months before Election Day, clearly escalates the money wars. The outside groups are playing an increasingly prominent role in the presidential race by running aggressive advertising campaigns, often attacking opponents.

Republican Super PACs have played crucial roles, often as surrogate attack dogs, in some of the early presidential primaries this year and have been active, too, in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, all of them holding primaries or caucuses on Tuesday. …

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