February 7, 2012

Pro-Obama Super PAC Co-Founder In 2008: People Should Donate To Obama, Not Outside Groups

Pro-Obama Super PAC Co-Founder In 2008: People Should Donate To Obama, Not Outside Groups
2008's Bill Burton would disagree with 2012's Bill Burton about electoral spending by outside groups.

President Obama’s campaign announced late yesterday that it would be encouraging supporters to financially support the Priorities USA Action Super PAC, breaking with previous criticism of Super PACs.

The co-founder and senior strategist of Priorities USA Action is former Obama White House aide Bill Burton. Burton has enthusiastically helped lead the organization since its founding in early 2011, and has been a rigorous fundraiser for the Super PAC.

Yet Burton wasn’t always so comfortable with raising unlimited amounts of dollars for outside groups to intervene in the election. In 2008, he served as then-candidate Obama’s press secretary. He encouraged Obama donors to donate directly to the candidate and not support outside groups:

Mr. Obama’s campaign says it has taken pains to discourage these [outside group] efforts on its behalf, and in fact the campaign has no recourse in controlling them. “We do not think people should be donating to 527s,” said Bill Burton, a campaign spokesman. “We would rather have them involved in our campaign. It is our hope that anyone who supports Obama does so directly through his campaign and not through these outside groups.”

What changed between 2008 and 2012 to transform Bill Burton from Super PAC scold to Super PAC supervisor?  Maybe the former Obama aide had a personal change of heart about the role of money in politics, and decided that big money from outside groups should dominate our electoral system after all.  Perhaps top Obama advisors were shocked and dismayed to see Burton betray his former stance, but it looks like they’ve come around now.