OBAMA EMBRACES SUPER PACS: JUSTICE DEPARTMENT INVESTIGATION SOUGHT

Posted: February 7, 2012 in by John Dilligent
Tags: , ,

Obama’s “next move” appears to be the exact opposite of whatever he says it will be

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“In plain truth, lying is an accursed vice. We are not men, nor have any other tie upon another, but by our word.”  — Michel Eyquem De Montaigne

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“Every government is run by liars, and nothing they say should be believed.”  — I. F. Stone

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President Obama personally signed off on his campaign’s decision to actively encourage donations to Democratic Super PAC Priorities USA this morning, according to senior campaign officials.

But an official would not characterize the tone of Obama’s agreement to back a policy that is at odds with his previous vocal opposition to the Citizens United decision that allows Super PACs to solicit unlimited donations.

Conversations among top advisers about the need to “lend support” to the outside fundraising effort have been going on for “weeks,” and the decision was made after a review of FEC filings from the Super PAC committees supporting the GOP presidential candidates, officials said.

As a result of the decision, some White House officials, campaign aides, and cabinet members will appear at Priorities USA events to “amplify Obama’s message” but will not directly solicit donations. The president, First Lady, and vice president will not be attending any Priorities USA events.

The campaign said Tuesday that it will not encourage donations to a related 501(c)4 organization that does not disclose its donors to the FEC as the Priorities USA SuperPAC will.

The reversal opens Obama — who has long bemoaned the influx of money into the political process — to accusations of hypocrisy as his campaign now hopes to lure big donors to the fundraising body founded by former White House aide Bill Burton.

Officials maintain that the decision “not to unilaterally disarm” by rejecting Super PACs is simply a response to the millions expected to be spent by GOP interests to fight Obama’s re-election.

“We can’t afford hundreds of millions of dollars by corporate special interests on the air drowning out our message, while we’re fighting hand-to-hand on the ground,”  said one official.

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Meanwhile, a top campaign watchdog group today is calling for a Justice Department criminal investigation into Super PACs supporting President Obama and GOP front runner Mitt Romney.

Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a group sharply critical of Super PACs, said Priorities USA Action, the Obama Super PAC, and Restore Our Future, a similar group backing Romney, are both “illegal operations” because of their close ties to the candidates they are backing.

In the wake of reports that the White House has signed off on plans to urge wealthy donors to contribute to the group, Wertheimer said he is writing a letter to the Justice Department today urging criminal probes of both groups.

“In order to believe that the Super PACs supporting President Obama and Mitt Romney are ‘independent’ from the presidential campaigns they are supporting, you must believe in the tooth fairy,”  Wertheimer said.

Bill Burton, Obama’s former deputy press secretary and 2008 campaign spokesman, set up Priorities USA Action last year along with another former Obama political aide, Sean Sweeney. Burton did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Restore Our Future, which has spent millions in the GOP primary so far, was set up by former Romney aides Charlie Spies, who was Romney’s general counsel during his 2008 bid, and Carl Forti, who was Romney’s political director. Forti is also the political director for American Crossroads.

The White House plan to steer wealthy donors to give money to Priorities USA Action was disclosed in a blog posting on the Obama campaign website, saying that the move was needed to “neutralize the avalanche of special interest spending” being mounted on the GOP side to defeat President Obama.

“The stakes are too important to play by two different sets of rules,”  Jim Messina, Obama’s campaign manager wrote.

The New York Times reported that the White House plans to dispatch top officials, including senior advisers David Plouffe and Valerie Jarrett to meet with donors. Romney himself has appeared at Restore Our Future fundraisers, something he defended on The Daily Rundown, saying he’d acted within the law.

“They can help in terms of fundraising, but cannot in any way communicate a course of advertising, suggest when ads run, where they run, what’s in the content of the ads,” Romney said of candidates and campaigns and whether or how much they can coordinate with Super PACs supporting them. “Those are things that are prohibited so we’re being very careful in that regard.”

A top strategist who works with Democratic Super PACs said that the White House decision came after mounting worries within party circles that spending by a phalanx of GOP Super PACs could reach $1 billion by election day — including $100 million from the conservative oil magnate Koch brothers — drowning out the president’s message

“When you see numbers like that, it starts getting a little spooky,”  the strategist said.

He also said most big Democratic donors have so far been gun shy of the Super PACs, because of Obama’s past criticism of such groups. In the 2010 election, Obama charged that GOP groups, fueled with “special interest” money, were threatening to “hijack” democracy.

“We need some of our big birds to get off the wire,”  the strategist said, noting that some wealthy donors have expressed concerns that they’ll be “demonized” if they give to one of the Democratic Super PACs.

So far, Priorities USA Action has had relatively little success in raising funds, reporting last week that it had collected just $4.4 million through the end of last year. A Priorities official said it had raised another $2.3 million via a 501(c)4 arm that doesn’t have to disclose donors. (The Karl Rove-Ed Gillespie-led groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS have a similar set up and has raised far more money.)

That $6.7 million is compared to the $30 million raised by Restore Our Future and the $51 million reported raised by American Crossroads and its non-profit, non-disclosed affiliate Crossroads GPS.

The pro-Obama group did report a handful of big checks, including $2 million from Hollywood mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, $1 million from the SEIU labor union, $100,000 from director Steven Spielberg, and others.

While individual donors can only give $2,500 a piece to official campaign committees, the Super PACs can collect unlimited donations from individuals, corporations, and labor unions. Priorities USA Action also reported last week that $215,000 of its operating expenses were being paid by its non-profit affiliate — called Priorities USA — which like Crossroads GPS, does not disclose its donors.

“As much as (David) Axelrod hates to give up this part of the president’s message,”  the strategist said, “most voters are pretty cynical about this stuff and don’t much care.”

Priorities spokesman Bill Burton disputes the notion that Priorities is an “illegal operation.” “We of course are abiding by all appropriate rules and laws,”  Burton said.

On February 4, President Barack Obama spent time with around 25 wealthy donors who paid $35,800 each to talk with him behind closed doors at a Washington hotel. The hour-long fundraiser Friday afternoon at the upscale Jefferson Hotel near the White House was closed to press coverage.

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What IS a Super PAC?

The 2010 election marked the rise of a new political committee, dubbed the “Super PAC,” and officially known as “independent-expenditure only committees,” which can raise unlimited sums from corporations, unions and other groups, as well as individuals.

The Super PACs were made possible by two judicial decisions. First the US Supreme Court held in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that government may not prohibit unions and corporations from making independent expenditures about politics. Soon thereafter, in Speechnow.org v. FEC, the Federal Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit held that contributions to groups that only make independent expenditures could not be limited.

Super PACs are not  allowed to coordinate directly with candidates or political parties since they are “independent”. However, a candidate may “talk to his associated Super PAC via the media. And the super PAC can listen, like everybody else,”  according to journalist Peter Grier, election law expert Rick Hasen, and former chairman of the United States Federal Election Commission Trevor Potter (the lawyer of TV satirists Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert).

Super PACs are required to disclose their donors, just like traditional PACs. However, many exploit a technicality in the filing requirements in order to postpone disclosure until well after the elections they participate in.

Even absent a formal connection to a campaign, Super PACs openly support particular candidacies. In the primary season before the 2012 presidential campaign, for example, the Restore Our Future  Super PAC benefited Republican Mitt Romney while attacking rival Newt Gingrich. In the same election, the pro-Gingrich Winning Our Future  Super PAC attacked Romney. Each Super PAC was run by former employees of the candidate it supported, and each attracted money from that candidate’s associates.

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Special thanks to:  NBC (National Brainwashing Corporation), and Wikipedia, located at:  http://en.wikipedia.org

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