On Monday, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina announced that Priorities USA, a Super PAC staffed by former White House officials, would receive full fundraising support from the official re-election effort. On Tuesday, he visited Wall Street:
Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s campaign manager, assured a group of Democratic donors from the financial services industry that Obama won’t demonize Wall Street as he stresses populist appeals in his re-election campaign, according to two people at the meeting. […]
In response to a question, Messina told the group of Wall Street donors that the president plans to run against Romney, not the industry that made the former governor of Massachusetts millions, according to one of the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting. […]
Messina also discussed the president’s reversal in encouraging donors to contribute to independent political action committees backing Obama, the person said. Messina’s remarks to the group echoed a public e-mail he sent to supporters saying, “We can’t allow for two sets of rules in this election whereby the Republican nominee is the beneficiary of unlimited spending and Democrats unilaterally disarm.”
The story, from Bloomberg Business Week, doesn’t mention specifically that Messina asked for donations to Priorities USA. But given that he promised to be nice to the financial sector and “discussed” the new Super PAC effort with these high-dollar donors, one can pretty easily read between the lines.
Again, it’s easy to see the campaign’s logic in revving up its Super PAC. It may need to do that for strategic reasons. The question still remains: What must they promise donors for their increased support? These Wall Street folks that Messina met with already backed the president’s re-election, but if they end up donating even more to the Super PAC, it’s unlikely they would do so without expecting some consideration in return.
Elsewhere on this front, the New York Times had a strong editorial today criticizing the campaign’s decision to back Priorities USA:
Priorities USA Action and other Democratic groups have raised only $19 million. And, as Mr. Messina wrote on the Obama campaign’s blog, “with so much at stake” Democrats decided that they would not “unilaterally disarm.”
But if President Obama had refused to join in this downward spiral—and if he had proudly campaigned on that refusal—he and his campaign might have made up for that deficit in other ways: with more small contributions, and more support, from a public disgusted by the outsize influence of big money.
A president has a megaphone bigger even than Mr. Rove’s bloated bank account, and Mr. Obama could have impressed many wavering voters if he had chosen to use it against campaign corruption. He could have pointed out that it was Republicans who blocked the Disclose Act, which would have ended secret corporate donations, and that it was Republicans who used unlimited corporate funds to win back the House in 2010, pressing a corporate agenda that has severely hurt the middle class.
He could have ridiculed Mitt Romney’s super PAC for accepting $18 million from just 200 donors in the second half of last year, including million-dollar checks from hedge-fund operators, industrialists and bankers.
But now Mr. Obama has given up that higher ground. He had already undermined the public financing system for presidential campaigns by refusing to use it in 2008, but this is much worse. In that campaign, he at least forswore money from independent groups and lobbyists. Now he is relying on a super PAC that can accept money from anyone.
He is also telling the country that simply getting re-elected is bigger than standing on principle.
You can read the whole thing here.