Obama reverses course, endorses use of Super PACs in 2012 campaign

The Takeaway

President Barack Obama on Tuesday indicated to donors that if not changing his opinion of Super PACs in general, he’s willing — and indeed hopes — to have them support him in the upcoming presidential election.

Previously Obama had previously called them “a threat to our democracy,” but, according to a report in The New York Times, after seeing the way Republican Mitt Romney used Super PACs to savage his opponents in the primary, became convinced he might not win without one. So, according to the Times, Obama has signed off on a plan that will see his senior advisers and some cabinet officials speaking at fundraisers for the Super PACs.

Officials say the plan meets all Federal Elections Commission guidelines and the Obama advisers will only coordinate with the Super PAC officials to the degree necessary to plan for their speeches. They won’t ask for money, though the PACs will be doing that at the events, the Times reported.

Joe Hagan, contributing editor for New York Magazine, said Obama’s reversal was a reflection of the political reality of the upcoming election cycle.

“There’s a pure math equation here,” Hagan said. “The amount of money they have been watching the Republican side accumulate is creating a lot of fear. We’ve seen in this Republican primary how powerful that money can be.”

Hagan said Democrats are living with the reality they will be outspent in this election, one way or another, but the degree to which they’re outspent is what has Democrats nervous and willing to take the political hit of reversing themselves on Super PACs.

“They are going to be overwhelmed,” he said. “These Super PACs are driving the negative — it’s almost what they’re there for. To go negative and to spend a lot of money doing it.”

Hagan said this election, with high unemployment, provides a lot of incentive for both sides to go negative. Romney has to paint Obama as a failed leader responsible for millions of Americans being without a job, while Obama is trying to portray Romney — who many not even be the nominee but still seems most likely — as an even worse individual to bring jobs back to America.

The Obama-linked Super PAC, Priorities USA Action, has actually been in operation for more than a year. As of the most recent FEC filings, it had raised $4.4 million.

“It’s run by a former Obama adviser,” Hagan said. “It’s a mirror image of the ones being run for Romney and the other candidates, where it’s run by a former staffer with a paper thin wall between the campaign and this outside group.”

Super PACs have the potentially to totally turnover the cart in terms of political advertising. In 2008, some $2.5 billion were spent on political advertising. Hagan said the latest estimates expect $4.9 billion to be spent in political advertising this year.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.