July 10th, 2012

Will Citizens United Doom Obama’s Reelection?

Robert Draper writes for NY Times Magazine about the post-Citizens United Super PAC race for cash, one which Democrats are losing badly:

Two years later, President Obama repeatedly denounced the conservative super PACs that had cropped up in the wake of the Citizens United decision. In so doing, Obama ended up unilaterally disarming Democrats while animating Republicans. “When Obama attacked us by name in the fall of 2010, accusing us of taking money from the Chinese, it was basically the best fund-raising pitch we could’ve made,” says Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for American Crossroads, the conservative super PAC conceived by Karl Rove and the Republican consultant Ed Gillespie. “We raised $13 million the week after they attacked us.” Burton and Sweeney watched from the White House — more with rueful admiration than moral outrage — as the Republicans turned the tables, outspending Democratic groups by $100 million and taking back the House….

During the first 10 months of its existence, Priorities USA Action managed to raise only $7 million. (Of this, $2 million was seed money from Jeffrey Katzenberg, the C.E.O. of DreamWorks Animation; another $1 million came from the comedian Bill Maher.) Their travails to some degree reflect the Democratic Party’s greater struggle with its prim self-perception. From the perspective of many Democrats, this year’s foray into post-Citizens United campaigning calls to mind an “Apocalypse Now”-like journey into the maw of something darker than death itself — namely, a morality-free zone in which Republicans alone can thrive. “I think that many Democrats feel that participating in the system would be validating Citizens United, which was a bad and destructive decision,” Geoff Garin says.

A sentiment commonly held by Democrats — so much so that it’s part of the standard Priorities pitch to donors — is that their only motivation to contribute is a moral one, while Republicans like the Koch brothers donate because they stand to make gobs of money if their pro-business candidate is elected. One of Priorities’ big donors told me another reason that conservatives are more suited to a post-Citizens United climate than progressives. “To me, a lot of the super-PAC money on the Republican side comes from hatred,” he said. “We Democrats just don’t hate like that.” 

Read the full article here.

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