Did Obama Flip Flop On His Criticism of Super PACs?
Reversal on wealthy donors creates opening for attacks from the right and the left.
It seems this week we’re learning the 2012 presidential race has three flip-floppers vying for the Oval Office: reputational moderate Mitt Romney, influence peddling Newt Gingrich, and now a seemingly "flimsy-on-principles" Barack Obama.
To be clear, President Obama, during a Sunday pre-Super Bowl broadcast interview, and through a poorly restrained grin, expressed his desire that wealthy donors and special interest groups stick to the limitations placed on individuals.
But his re-election campaign advisors, in so many words, have said, “Damn that.” And the president (uh, reluctantly?) agreed to begin allowing wealth Democratic donors to contribute to a super PAC, named Priorities USA Action. The campaign then spent the early part of the week spinning this reversal to skeptical reporters and email list subscribers as an unavoidable reality, gift wrapped by the United States Supreme Court.
In an email from Obama for America campaign manager, Jim Messina:
“The stakes are too important to play by two different sets of rules. If we fail to act, we concede this election to a small group of powerful people intent on removing the President at any cost.”
You may remember the president’s ovation-prompting criticism of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, during his 2010 State of the Union address. (Yeah, it’s like an attack ad has been gift wrapped for conservatives.)
In all fairness, the president’s re-election campaign makes a valid point in decrying the piles of cash amassed over the last year by super PACS supporting the Republican candidates.
A few groups supporting Romney raised over $30 million last year from just 200 contributors, Messina said in his email. That’s an average of $150,000 per donor. By contrast, the Obama campaign says the average donation it receives under federal election laws for individuals averages $55.
It’s still unclear how the president’s reversal will play with voters. This apparent flip flop, on an issue central to Obama’s audacious prescription for a changed government, arguably kills the campaign’s ability to peg inevitable GOP nominee Romney has flimsy on his principles.