The Sad Spectacle of Obama’s Super PAC

obama phone

President Obama phoning servicemembers (White House photographer Pete Souza)

It has been said there is no high ground in American politics since any politician who claims it is likely to be gunned down by those firing from the trenches. That’s how the Obama team justifies its decision to endorse a super PAC that can raise and spend unlimited sums for his campaign.

Baloney. Good ends don’t justify corrupt means. I understand the White House’s concerns. Obama is a proven fundraiser – he cobbled together an unprecedented $745 million for the 2008 election and has already raised $224 million for this one. But his aides figure Romney can raise almost as much, and they fear an additional $500 million or more will be funneled to Romney by a relative handful of rich individuals and corporations through right-wing super PACS like “American Crossroads.” The White House was surprised that super PACs outspent the GOP candidates themselves in several of the early primary contests, and noted how easily Romney’s super PAC delivered Florida to him and pushed Newt Gingrich from first-place to fourth-place in Iowa. Romney’s friends on Wall Street and in the executive suites of the nation’s biggest corporations have the deepest pockets in America. His super PAC got $18 million from just 200 donors in the second half of last year, including million-dollar checks from hedge-fund moguls, industrialists and bankers. How many billionaires does it take to buy a presidential election? “With so much at stake” wrote Obama campaign manager Jim Messina on the Obama campaign’s blog, Obama couldn’t “unilaterally disarm.” But would refusing to be corrupted this way really amount to unilateral disarmament? To the contrary, I think it would have given the President a rallying cry that nearly all Americans would get behind: “More of the nation’s wealth and political power is now in the hands of fewer people and large corporations than since the era of the robber barons of the Gilded Age. I will not allow our democracy to be corrupted by this! I will fight to take back our government!” robert reichSmall donations would have flooded the Obama campaign, overwhelming Romney’s billionaire super PACs. The people would have been given a chance to be heard. The sad truth is Obama has never really occupied the high ground on campaign finance. He refused public financing in 2008. Once president, he didn’t go to bat for a system of public financing that would have made it possible for candidates to raise enough money from small donors and matching public funds they wouldn’t need to rely on a few billionaires pumping unlimited sums into super PACS. He hasn’t even fought for public disclosure of super PAC donations. And now he’s made a total mockery of the Court’s naïve belief that super PACs would remain separate from individual campaigns, by officially endorsing his own super PAC and allowing campaign manager Jim Messina and even cabinet officers to speak at his super PAC events. Obama will not appear at such events but he, Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden will encourage support of the Obama super PAC. robert reichOne Obama adviser says Obama’s decision to openly endorse his super PAC has had an immediate effect. “Our donors get it,” the official said, adding that they now want to “go fight the other side.” Exactly. So now a relative handful of super-rich Democrats want fight a relative handful of super-rich Republicans. And we call this a democracy. Robert Reich Robert Reich’s Blog 


  1. Joe Weinstein says

    Re campaign finance in 2008 Obama violated his own prior promise to rely on public funds. That was just the beginning of a record where he breaks promise after promise, to would-be supporters and allies at home and abroad. Promise- breaking in general, not the specific arena of campaign finance, is where Obama has disgraced himself.

    Anyhow currently agitated politically correct stances of liberals and progressives on campaign finance are quite misguided. Genuine get-out-the-message campaigning costs very little these days, thanks to Internet. In our Roman-republic-style populist-veneer elected-oligarchy system, excessive campaign spending owes instead to two factors: (1) We promote voting by civically passive mental couch-potatoes who couldn’t care less about who or what they vote for, so long as they are wowed by cute ads on their favorite couch-potato program; and (2) It really pays to get elected to high office: you become part of an oligarchy which is given plenty of long-term power to make – at virtually unchecked whim – many public decisions – and thereby can sell out the public good for lots of bucks.

  2. don Duitz says

    My feelings are with you on this and I choking on some of the Obama politics, and here is the butt:
    I fear another round of Republican control of our country would end the country I love. He’s doing what Clinton did sucessfully and it just shows that politics “corrupts the best among us.

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