WASHINGTON--In a switch, the Obama re-election team gave a green light Monday night to donors to contribute to a Super Pac allied with the president and run by two former Obama White House staffers, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
"We will not play by two sets of rules," said Obama campaign manger Jim Messina of the decision to support Priorities USA. He told supporters in an e-mail released after a conference call to the campaigns best fund-raisers--the National Finance Committee-- that giving to the Super PAC "can help neutralize the avalanche of special-interest spending to defeat President Obama."
In the conference call to the National Finance Committee, Messina laid out the new ground rules going forward to encourage donors to give to Priorities USA, the Super Pac formed last year by Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney after they left the Obama White House.
Sweeney and Burton created the Super Pac to help bolster Obama's bid for a second term, but until now the Obama team had never done anything to help them raise money.
The assistance will come in the form of high profile figures in the Obama orbit taking part in fund-raising or prospecting events--with the exception of President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle. The surrogates to appear at Priorities USA events will include senior White House and campaign aides and cabinet members, the Obama campaign said, though they will not make a direct ask for a contribution.
"While campaign officials may be appearing at events to amplify our message, these folks won't be soliciting contributions for Priorities USA," Messina said in a post on the campaign web site. The distinction is a legal one without much of a practical difference: donors--or potential donors--will get face time, even if a check is written at a difference time and place.
Some White House figures already are part of a campaign "speakers series."
Messina said in his post the policy was changed in the wake of the millions being spent by Republican Super Pacs to defeat Obama.
"Over the last few months, Super PACs affiliated with Republican presidential candidates have spent more than $40 million on television and radio, almost all of it for negative ads," Messina wrote.
"Last week, filings showed that the Super PAC affiliated with Mitt Romney's campaign raised $30 million in 2011 from fewer than 200 contributors, most of them from the financial sector. Governor Romney personally helped raise money for this group, which is run by some of his closest allies.
"Meanwhile, other Super PACs established for the sole purpose of defeating the President--along with "nonprofits" that also aren't required to disclose the sources of their funding--have raised more than $50 million. In the aggregate, these groups are expected to spend half a billion dollars, above and beyond what the Republican nominee and party are expected to commit to try to defeat the President.
"With so much at stake, 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," wrote Messina.
Chicago businessman Fred Eychaner has been a major donor to Priorities USA, giving $500,000 last year.
Obama has a full calendar of upcoming fund-raising events to benefit his Obama 2012 campaign and the Democratic National Committee:
Feb. 9, a dinner in Washington aimed at lesbian, gay and transgender donors.
Feb. 10, a round table at the Jefferson Hotel in Washington.
Feb. 15, two events in Los Angeles.
Feb. 16, events in San Francisco.
Feb. 17, events in Seattle.
Feb. 23, three events in Florida, two near Miami and the third in Orlando at the home of basketball star Vince Carter, held the day before the NBA All Star game in Orlando.