The Obama campaign press release punts the move as one of practical necessity.
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.
There are going to be two stances on this. One will agree with the Obama campaign that it makes no sense to “unilaterally disarm” and thus perhaps allow a higher-spending Republican to win the presidency – for that would surely doom any overturn of Citizens United. The Obama campaign’s basic argument is that Obama must embrace a super-Pac to eventually get rid of super-PACs.
The other view will be that this is sheer hypocrisy – that giving up a moral position just because it’s a tough stance to take is, not to put too fine a point on it, immoral. It leaves Obama open to the charge that he is trying to have their cake and eat it too.
Readers’ mileage will no doubt vary on which of these views to take.
Update: MSNBC’s First Read notes the echo of Obama’s 2008 reversal on public financing and adds.
his decision won’t just be a financial boon for the struggling Democratic Super PACs; it’s going to be a seal of approval for the Republican Super PACs. They now have been legitimized by the president and their effectiveness has been highlighted by the Obama campaign. The financial nuclear arms race is now afoot.
The message being sent right now is that winning is more important than principles.
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