Obama campaign manager Jim Messina sent out an email blast to everyone yesterday letting them know that the decision had been made to allow large donors to contribute to PrioritiesUSA, the SuperPAC created by Bill Burton last year.
After the most recent FEC reports, the campaign made the decision not to "unilaterally disarm", despite their continuing disagreement with the Citizens United decision and the impact it has on our politics. From Messina's post:
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.
Over the last few months, Super PACs affiliated with Republican presidential candidates have spent more than $40 million on television and radio, almost all of it for negative ads.
Last week, filings showed that the Super PAC affiliated with Mitt Romney's campaign raised $30 million in 2011 from fewer than 200 contributors, most of them from the financial sector. Governor Romney personally helped raise money for this group, which is run by some of his closest allies.
Meanwhile, other Super PACs established for the sole purpose of defeating the President—along with "nonprofits" that also aren't required to disclose the sources of their funding—have raised more than $50 million. In the aggregate, these groups are expected to spend half a billion dollars, above and beyond what the Republican nominee and party are expected to commit to try to defeat the President.
With so much at stake, we can't allow for two sets of rules in this election whereby the Republican nominee is the beneficiary of unlimited spending and Democrats unilaterally disarm.
Some may feel like this is a policy reversal and has the risk of polluting OFA's message that this is a campaign fueled by small donors. I disagree with that, particularly in light of the fact that the Koch brothers have pledged $100 million to defeat President Obama in this cycle.
For me, there are two relevant and important questions which will distinguish large donor funding to the Obama campaign from the Republicans' efforts. First, will PrioritiesUSA disclose who their donors are? Their answer to that is an emphatic "yes."
Therefore, 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 PAC. We will do so only in the knowledge and with the expectation that all of its donations will be fully disclosed as required by law to the Federal Election Commission.
For me, this is a key question. Lack of disclosure harms elections more than unlimited funds. Knowing who the donors are defines and frames the agenda behind the ads or other materials they might pay to distribute.
My second question concerns the true influence of television advertising on elections. I'm not sure a barrage of negative advertising necessarily influences voters' decisions if there are other avenues for information. OFA has a huge grassroots network on the ground and on the Internet. I believe there's far more power in people-to-people communication than the constant barrage of negative advertising. While I'm not sure whether studies have been done that show otherwise, my own anecdotal evidence points to the power of one-on-one communication, voter registration efforts, and people power as a more effective way to campaign.
"It is a dumb approach," Feingold said in a phone interview with TheHuffington Post. "It will lead to scandal and there are going to be alot of people having corrupt conversations about huge amounts of moneythat will one day regret that they went down the route of what iseffectively a legalized Abramoff system."
"I also think it guts the president's message and the Democratic Party's message," Feingold added. "We are doing very well right now. The president is doing brilliantly. This is no time to blunt that message by starting to play this game. I think people will see it as phony that Democrats start playing by Republican rules. People willsee us as weak and not being a true alternative and just being the same as the other guy. And as I have said before, to me this is dancing with the devil."
I think if the devil is cranking up the music and there's not another partner, you dance before he shoves you into the fire. But at least when Democrats dance, they'll be telling us all who they're dancing with, unlike those who hide behind 501(c)(4) curtains for their funding.