President Barack Obama’s national campaign co-chairman, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, is stepping down to help raise money for a “super” political committee supporting Obama. The move reflects increasing alarm by Democrats being outspent by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and shows that despite legal limits, the lines between campaigns and super PACs are blurry.
The campaign and the super PAC confirmed Wednesday that Emanuel – once one of Obama’s closest White House aides – is joining Priorities USA Action, which is run with the help of other former White House advisers and has spent millions of dollars on ads to help the president. Emanuel brings fundraising gusto to an operation that so far has trailed its GOP counterparts in the money race, partly because some prominent Democratic donors including financier George Soros consider super PACs distasteful.
The move adds another wrinkle to Obama’s evolving positions on how elections are funded. Campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday that while Obama opposes the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United case that all but unraveled campaign-finance laws, he needs to use all available tools for raising money.
“We’re not going to bring a butter knife to a gun fight,” she said.
Obama raised a remarkable $750 million four years ago, but his advisers now acknowledge that the incumbent likely will be outspent this time.
The influence of money in politics has received heightened scrutiny this election cycle as super PACs have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to support their favored candidates. This is the first presidential election that is highlighting the impact of these groups.
Super PACs are allowed to raise unlimited money for candidates, but they are supposed to remain separate from the campaigns they support and not coordinate with them.