Obama Cabinet Members Prepare to Raise Money for Super PACs

Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Steven Chu and Ken Salazar
Having decided to support Democratic efforts to raise large sums of money via super PACs, President Barack Obama has recruited four members of his cabinet to participate in the fundraising for his super PAC, Priorities USA Action, and other Democratic super PACs.
The four are: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. All of these cabinet officials are experienced in collecting large contributions, either during Obama’s previous campaign or while running for office themselves, such as Salazar when he was in the U.S. Senate.
Until last week, Obama had publicly ridiculed super PACs, labeling them a “threat to democracy.” But once it was pointed out how well Republicans were doing with their super PACs, the president decided his party could not do without its own mega-million fundraising.
The law on such activities by cabinet members is porous. They are not to solicit campaign donations, but they are allowed to appear at campaign fundraisers, either as speakers or to just shake hands. Karl Rove, for example, appeared at fundraisers for George W. Bush while he was serving as Bush’s deputy chief of staff.
The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in January 2010 loosened the restrictions even more because it permitted unlimited donations to political advocacy groups as long as they do not coordinate their activities with the candidate or his or her campaign. Thus the creation of super PACs as vehicles to raise large sums of money.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
To Learn More:

Secret Cabinets of Cash (by John Wonderlich, Sunlight Foundation) 


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