Obama Campaign Gets in the Super PAC Game

Campaign Director Jim Messina says not accepting money from Super PACs is a "risk"

By + More

Late Monday, Barack Obama's campaign manager Jim Messina fired off an E-mail to supporters pleading with them to donate to Priorities USA, a democratic Super PAC founded by former White House aides Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney.

Obama's back tracking on a promise he's made over and over again that he would not accept money from so-called Super PACs, calling their influence "corrosive" during his State of the Union address.

The E-mail countered Obama's campaign message that the president would rise above the influence of money in politics and the corruption it brings. Instead, the headline of the E-mail read "We will not play by two sets of rules." [Jack Abramoff Proposes Reforms for Corrupt Lobbying.]

Messina wrote the campaign ultimately decided that forgoing any donations from the Super PAC would be "a real risk."

"We decided to do this because we can't afford for the work you're doing in your communities, and the grassroots donations you give to support it, to be destroyed by hundreds of millions of dollars in negative ads," he says. [See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 GOP hopefuls.]

Federal Elections Commission reports show Obama raised more than double of what GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney has collected, and more than 10 times what former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has.

However records from Super PACs last year show a different trend. Conservative Super PACs spent $43 million supporting candidates while leading liberal Super PACs spent just $3 million. The Obama campaign asserts that $30 million donated to Super PACs supporting Mitt Romney came from fewer than 200 contributors.

Messina's working now to reverse the trend, asking donors for big sums to Priorities USA, a pro-Obama Super PAC.

Messina explains that from now on, senior campaign officials and White House and cabinet officials will take a role in Priorities USA fundraising events. Messina did explain that the president, vice president, and first lady would not be engaging with Priorities USA.

The Obama campaign's switch from not accepting money from Super PACs won't surprise those who remember Obama's decision during the 2008 election to reject public funding after promising voters that he would finance his campaign with it. The public financing option limits candidates spending during elections. Obama went on to outspend John McCain $740.6 million to $227.7 million.

Read Messina's E-mail below.

Friend --

I wrote something for our blog about our decision to support Priorities USA, the Super PAC that can help neutralize the avalanche of special-interest spending to defeat President Obama. Every supporter should read it; it's pasted below.

I just want to add something for you specifically about your role in all of this.

We decided to do this because we can't afford for the work you're doing in your communities, and the grassroots donations you give to support it, to be destroyed by hundreds of millions of dollars in negative ads.

It's a real risk.

In 2011, the Super PAC supporting Mitt Romney raised $30 million from fewer than 200 contributors. Ninety-six percent of what they've spent so far, more than $18 million, has been on attack ads. The main engine of Romney's campaign has an average contribution of roughly $150,000.

That's why it's up to us -- the grassroots organization -- to win this election where we have the real advantage, and that's on the ground. More than 1.3 million Americans have already donated. Our average donation is $55, and 98 percent are $250 or less.

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.

If you can volunteer, please sign up now:


If you can give, please give now:


Thank you,


Jim Messina

Campaign Manager

Obama for America

  • See our latest political cartoons.
  • Jack Abramoff: DC corruption didn't go away.
  • Opinion: Pelosi should consider own ethics before attacking Gingrich.