The White House didn’t blow a dog whistle for deep-pocketed liberal donors on Monday. No, the administration whipped out a supersized vuvuzela. Blaring message: Let loose the campaign finance-bundling hounds of super PAC war!
President Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, who served as White House deputy chief of staff for operations before assuming 2012 re-election duties, announced the super PAC super-flip-flop in a mass e-mail to supporters and a blog post published on the left-wing Huffington Post website. In a related conference call to major campaign finance bundlers, Messina encouraged these high-dollar donors to start funding Priorities USA Action. That’s the Democratic super PAC founded by former White House staffers Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney.
Super PACs and campaigns are barred from coordinating with each other. Nevertheless, Messina said that “senior campaign officials as well as some White House and Cabinet officials will attend and speak at Priorities USA fundraising events.” Of course, they “won’t be soliciting contributions.” Wink-wink, nudge-nudge.
This brazen about-face for Team Obama is a goldmine of campaign lies, contortions and epic hypocrisy. Let us count the ways.
— A bundle of contradictions. “Bundling” is the rustling up of aggregate contributions from friends, business associates and employees, a practice to circumvent individual donation limits that Obama has long condemned. When he announced his presidential intentions in 2007, candidate Obama decried “the cynics, the lobbyists, the special interests who’ve turned our government into a game only they can afford to play.” He indignantly singled out “the best bundlers” who get the “greatest access” to power.
Last week, Obama acknowledged raising at least $74 million through his team of big-time bundlers who have been showered with access, tax dollars and plum patronage positions. This elite group of Hollywood celebrities (such as open-borders actress Eva Longoria), political cronies (such as Chicago bagman Louis “The Vacuum” Susman) and politically correct businessmen (such as bankrupt Solyndra investor George Kaiser) now totals a whopping 445 gold-card members.
— The roar of the revolving door. In his Monday announcement, Messina bragged about how the White House has enacted “sweeping” reforms to “close the revolving door between government and lobbyists.” In truth, the administration has widened the carousel and removed the brakes. The Obama-cheerleading Fishwrap of Record (The New York Times) itself identified at least 15 bundlers “involved in lobbying for Washington consulting shops or private companies.”
Moreover, “at least 68 of 350 Obama bundlers for the 2012 election or their spouses have served in the administration in some capacity; at least 250 of the bundlers visited the White House, and another 30 have ties to companies that conduct business with federal agencies or hope to do so in the future,” according to a recent iWatch News report. Several first-time 2012 bundlers already have snagged administration posts:
— Norma Lee Funger, of Potomac, Md., who raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for Obama, was appointed last month to the board of trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
— Glenn S. Gerstell, of Washington, D.C., who bundled the same amount, was appointed to the National Infrastructure Advisory Commission last fall.
— Richard Binder, of Bethesda, Md., another $50,000 to $100,000 bundler, was appointed to the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health last spring.
And note: The most transparent administration ever still refuses to disclose recusal orders involving the nearly 100 lobbyists and ex-lobbyists on its payroll.
— Super PAC super-hypocrisy. “Super PACs” are federal political action committees that only make independent expenditures in support of, or in opposition to, candidates. Their birth and growth were fueled indirectly by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission (FEC) ruling in 2010. The decision overturned severe campaign finance restrictions that essentially criminalized certain forms of political speech. As Chief Justice John Roberts put it during oral arguments: “We don’t put our First Amendment rights in the hands of FEC bureaucrats.”
Until this week, the Obama administration vehemently condemned the Citizens United decision and vowed to eschew super PACs. The entities are a “threat to our democracy,” Obama railed two years ago. The ruling would “open the floodgates for special interests,” he warned. And last July, Obama campaign press secretary Ben LaBolt kept talking the anti-super PAC talk. “Neither the president nor his campaign staff or aides will fundraise for super PACs,” he asserted. Now? President Obama and his wife won’t fundraise for the democracy-undermining super PACs. But countless other Cabinet members and advisers, partying with Obama bundlers gone wild, will.
In 2008, Obama lambasted rival Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards for criticizing independent expenditures while raking in big PAC bucks: “So you can’t say yesterday you don’t believe in them, and today you have three quarters of a million dollars being spent on you. You can’t just talk the talk.”
Obama 2012 campaign motto: Empty talk? Yes, we can!