Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images.
After watching the arm-wrestling competition of rival GOP super PACs in the 2012 Republican primaries, Obama has reversed course and decided to support the super PAC campaigning for his re-election.
The sudden change was first reported by Politico on Monday night, less than 24 hours after the president had criticized the "negative" tone of the political action committees' campaigns. The Obama-supporting super PAC Priorities USA Action raised $4.4 million at of the end of 2011, according to the latest FEC filing. That's a relatively paltry sum when compared with Romney's $23.6 million in support from the Restore Our Future super PAC.
Super PACs have become a huge player in fundraising and campaigning in the GOP primaries this year, thanks in part to the Supreme Court's Citizen's United decision in 2010, which cleared the way for corporations, unions, and special interest groups to directly support or denounce candidates, just as long as they're not actually coordinating with the candidate directly. The upshot, this election cycle, has been a free-for-all on negative campaign ads that candidates can easily disavow, even if they benefit from them. Candidates can also express support for a super PAC, as Obama has done now.
Obama will encourage his backers to give to the political action committee, and top supporters and Cabinet members (but not Obama himself) will appear at Priorities USA Action events. The change in plans was announced in an email to supporters Monday night. In it, campaign manager Jim Messina explained that the campaign "decided to do this because we can’t afford for the work you’re doing in your communities, and the grass-roots donations you give to support it, to be destroyed by hundreds of millions of dollars in negative ads."
Politico says that some are speculating the president's campaign made the apparently rushed announcement in order to draw attention away from a story in the New York Times in Tuesday's print edition about the $200,000 in campaign donations Obama received from the brothers of a Mexican casino magnate and fugitive. The Obama campaign has said they will return the funds.