Staking a principled hard-left position on campaign finance, the New York Times wailed over President Obama’s reversal on Super PAC's in its lead editorial Wednesday, “Another Campaign for Sale – President Obama reverses position and joins the sleazy ‘Super PAC’ money race.” (Yet the paper's news coverage failed to highlight those hypocrisies.)
Two years ago, while delivering his State of the Union address, President Obama looked the Supreme Court justices in the face and told them they were wrong to have allowed special interests to spend without limits on campaigns. “I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests,” he said. “They should be decided by the American people.”
On Monday, the president abandoned that fundamental principle and gave in to the culture of the Citizens United decision that he once denounced as a “threat to our democracy.”
His aides announced that the Obama campaign would begin to assist the “super PAC” that can raise and spend unlimited sums to support the president’s re-election effort. Even White House and cabinet officials are expected to appear at fund-raising events for Priorities USA Action.
The announcement fully implicates the president, his campaign and his administration in the pollution of the political system unleashed by Citizens United and related court decisions. Corporations, unions and wealthy individuals are already writing huge checks -- with no restrictions -- to political action committees supporting individual candidates, which have become bag men for campaigns that still nominally operate under federal limits.
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.