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The sad spectacle of Obama’s super PAC

Robert Reich, professor of public policy | February 8, 2012

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!”

Small 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.

One 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.

Cross-posted from Robert Reich’s blog.

Comments to “The sad spectacle of Obama’s super PAC

  1. Obama is Warren Buffet’s puppet. That’s the only explanation for his actions. Warren Buffet is running some kind of tax avoidance scheme, the more people are taxed the higher ROI Berkshire Hathaway can offer clients, the more money they make for themselves. To someone who pays a high rate of taxes a 6% return is the equivalent of a 12% return or better, which is actually pretty good. Also notice that Warren Buffet is fighting a huge tax bill himself that he does not want to pay. If you don’t believe me this information is freely available on the Internet or even the Berkshire Hathaway annual report. The upshot is that the current tax code ensures profitability for Warren Buffet.

    Obama and Reich supports this. So while they pretend to be on the side of the people their actions speak louder than words – these guys are for the super rich and are laughing all the way to the bank. And you people who support Obama, Reich and Buffet are getting hosed. Absolutely hosed – lack of economic opportunity, crashes in various markets, unemployment and a continued erosion of the living standard of the middle class. Putting democrats in charge is exactly the same as putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop.

  2. What’s so bad about unilateral disarmament? It worked for the Indian Independence Movement and the Civil Rights Movement…

  3. History of Democracy, beginning in Ancient Greece proves that there shall always be competitions between oligarchs (like GOP super PACs today) and Demos (We The People today), because the rich always want to tyrannize the middle class and poor throughout history.

    Republican primary and caucus elections today prove that it will take the democrats well over a $Billions to keep the presidency and elect dominant majorities in the House and Senate so the democrats can return America to peace and prosperity including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness once again.

    It is time to make certain every American citizen is educated to be able to determine the truth, perpetuate morality and learn constantly or we shall most certainly become the next failed civilization. This election is that important.

    The democrats have no choice but to fight back with the same financial weapons the republicans are using to spead lies that too easily control far too many republicans, so democratic super PACs have become a necessary evil until the democrats achieve an autocracy to protect We The People from further attacks by GOP tyrants.

    • Once again you make totally unsubstantiated comments. Democrats receive plenty of money from Wall Street. Goldman Sachs is definitely connected to the Democrat party and the recipients of campaign donations from Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac. Oligarchs seek domination of both parties, at least I’m intellectually honest to see that. The Tea Party is an attempt to rescue all of us from Oligarchs, aristocrats and status quo ruling class elites where ever they exist.

      • I agree with you about far too many democrats having to sell out to the power of money, and they still fail to protect the middle class from attacks by the GOP, which is why I do not belong to either party.

        The last great republican was Eisenhower, the last great democrat was FDR, and American Democracy has suffered from corrupt and incompetent politicians ever since.

        And the current republican candidates for president are proving that the GOP is dedicated to destroying the middle class regardless of how much poverty the produce as a consequence, basically repeating cycles of ancient Greek Oligarchs Against Demos. Nothing has changed in this respect during the entire history of Democracy.

        Your comments about Buffett are produced by Fox Network whose motto is “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

        • Fore one thing, the information about Buffet owing taxes was featured in the Huffington Post. Once again you make assertions without any empirical basis.

          • Interesting that you TPers use the liberal Huffington Post as one of your information sources. Obviously it’s one more source that TPers misunderstand.

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