Democrats with close ties to President Obama are forming two political groups that will rake in millions in anonymous donations to fight the 2012 campaign despite Obama's earlier declaration that such groups are bad for democracy, Politico's Jeanne Cummings reports. Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action are meant to counter Republican groups formed by Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, that raised $70 million to batter Democrats in the midterm elections last fall. The Priorities groups will abandon Obama's ban on contributions from lobbyists, unions, corporations, and political action committees--even though those groups can't donate to the president's reelection campaign.
Despite Obama's earlier campaign finance rhetoric, it appears he's now open to such groups flooding airwaves with ads financed by undisclosed people. Early last year, Obama adviser David Axelrod indicated the White House would be open to outside money. But by that fall, Obama was hitting the campaign trail and repeatedly saying things like, "The American people deserve to know who is trying to sway their elections," CNN's Paul Steinhauser notes. Not anymore, it seems, as Priorities is led by several people with White House ties--former Obama spokesman Bill Burton co-founded the group. Other leaders include former Rahm Emanuel adviser Sean Sweeney, former Bill Clinton adviser Paul Begala, and former Hillary Clinton adviser Geoff Garin.
NPR's Frank James argues the group is "another example of how some Democrats have had to bend their idealism about campaign-finance reform to the hard realities of being able to spend enough money to be able to win and keep power in Washington." Or as The Hill's Michael O'Brien succinctly put it, "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."