In a dramatic reversal of his previous stance, President Obama announced late on Monday that his re-election campaign would begin accepting fundraising money from Priorities USA Action, a super PAC. Obama had previously stated that, because he opposes the Citizens United ruling that makes uncapped political donations from corporations and special interest groups possible, he would not be accepting money from any of the barely regulated political action campaigns. However, once it became clear that Obama’s political fundraising would not be able to keep up with Republicans’, he reversed course.
Writing in a blog post on the Obama-Biden website, Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina said,
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.
Super PACs have funneled tens of millions of dollars into Republican campaign coffers over the past year, as the GOP has wholeheartedly embraced their role in the election. Obama once always had sharp words for PACs, and spoke multiple times during the 2010 midterm elections about the risk of the groups corrupting the political system and being taken advantage of by foreign money. But now, he will likely appear at events for Priorities USA Action, while actively soliciting money from them.
The role of super PACs in campaign financing has become a hot topic in recent months. Comedian Stephen Colbert has gone out of his way to protest the groups with a satirical super PAC of his own, and Occupy Wall Street regularly points to the Citizens United ruling as an example of corporate control of politics.
Obama’s total about-face on the subject will certainly give Republicans an easy opening to criticize him during the election season, particularly since he has already declined to accept public campaign financing, despite an earlier promise to do so.