Obama's Flip-Flop on Super PACs Undermines His Image as a Righteous Campaign Finance Reformer


If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. This is the excuse that President Barack Obama is giving for his recent decision to embrace the big-money fundraising groups, known as super PACs, he once referred to as a “threat to our democracy” because they let money corrode elections.

The sudden shift is hardly surprising considering the major funds that his GOP rivals are raking in through their super PACs, politically-aligned organizations which can accept unlimited donations from corporations, labor unions, and wealthy individuals for a specific candidate. But, Obama’s decision to flip-flop on this politically-charged issue undermines his efforts to present himself as the righteous campaign finance reformer.

Obama maintains he still doesn’t support the idea of a super PAC and will go back to fighting them once the election is over, but that in order to give himself a fighting chance in 2012, he has to play by the same rules as the Republicans. As senior campaign adviser David Axelrod told USA Today, “We were faced with a situation as to whether we could afford to play by two sets of rules, and the answer is obviously no.”

I am no campaign expert, but in my opinion, the Obama camp is selling themselves incredibly short. With the Republican Party as divided as they are, and the economy continuing to improve, the odds are in Obama’s favor.

Because the president has no primary opposition, the Obama campaign has been able to stockpile tens of millions of dollars in their campaign war chest, money they won’t even have to touch for several months.

Obama can afford to take the high road here and set an example on campaign finance reform by rejecting super PACs, which are destroying the democratic process by forcing candidates to pander to the interests of big corporations and the wealthy elite.

Super PACs have played a major role in the election so far, contributing more than $40 million during the Republican primaries — the majority of which has been spent on ads. But the Obama campaign has built its war chest out of small donations from the average American voter. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, “Small-dollar donors — those who gave $200 or less — compose about half of the total fund-raising hauls of Obama.”

This is the way it should be. The wealthy elite should not be allowed to buy the presidency. By using super PACs, the president is only indebting himself to the CEOs and millionaires who donate to his campaign, and he is perpetuating the stereotype that all politicians are beholden to special interests.

Obama should stand firm in his original decision to reject super PACs and continue his crusade for transparency in campaign finance. By doing so, he can set an important example for other politicians and present himself as a president who only plays fair.

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