The president, Vice President Joe Biden and first lady Michelle Obama would not be part of the effort and would remain focused on Obama's campaign, officials said, arguing that it contrasted with Republican front-runner Mitt Romney's appearance before an outside group supporting him.
At the White House, Carney deflected charges that the president's shift was hypocritical, insisting Obama's opinion on super PACs and the Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case had not changed. "He takes a dim view of it," Carney said. "He will continue to press for change even if it requires a constitutional amendment."
Asked whether Obama wrestled with the decision, Carney said, "I think you can divine that, that this is a decision that was carefully considered, by the fact that it's February of 2012 and you've already seen in the Republican Party how much money is being raised by these organizations."
Days before the campaign's announcement on the super PACs, Obama bemoaned the influence of big money in presidential campaigns in a weekend interview with NBC News, saying the Supreme Court's decision had made outside money an unavoidable part of the political process. "It is very hard to be able to get your message out without having some resources," Obama said.
Obama's campaign has voluntarily released the names of its top donors and criticized Republicans for not doing the same. As it did in 2008, the Obama campaign has said it wouldn't take money from registered federal lobbyists, but there are other ways for power-players to influence Washington.
A recent Associated Press review found major donors to super PACs — supporting both Obama and Romney — have business at stake before the federal government. They include executives at energy companies trying to strip climate change rules, and a prominent hospital's director who pushed for Army research and Medicaid changes.
Obama's campaign and its supporters at Priorities USA Action and the Democratic National Committee already have outspent their Republican counterparts by nearly 2 to 1, records show. Financial reports as of late 2011 show groups supporting Obama's re-election effort garnered at least $252 million in contributions, leaving about $95.9 million cash on hand.
But the fundraising gap may be starting to narrow.
While Obama-supportive groups have largely outraised Republicans, including Romney's campaign, GOP-leaning groups like Restore Our Future and the Republican National Committee have brought the GOP total to $226 million. That haul includes roughly $51 million raised from both American Crossroads and its non-profit arm, Crossroads GPS. Democrats say they fear an avalanche of a half-billion dollars from the outside groups.
Other major Republican donors, for their part, have yet to get behind Romney fully. The family of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has pledged $11 million to help Newt Gingrich, although operatives say Adelson is likely to support Romney if he secures the GOP nomination. That, combined with yet-to-be-spent cash from other major fundraisers, could tip the balance of power in Romney's favor.
By signaling the president's support for the outside fundraising group, Obama's team made clear it's a risk they're not willing to take.
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