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Obama reverses stance on super PACs

President Obama criticized the "Citizens United" decision that legalized unlimited political donations to "super PACs," but today his campaign announced a change of opinion.

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WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 2: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama listens at the National Prayer Breakfast February 2, 2012 in Washington, DC. Obama defended his economic policies, echoing his recent State of the Union address. (Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images) (Chris Kleponis/AFP/Getty Images)

President Obama has reversed his position on so-called "super PACs," which are political actions committees that can receive unlimited donations. Super PACs were legalized by the Supreme Court in its controversial 2010 "Citizens United" decision, which held that corporate speech, like human speech, is protected under the first amendment, and that there cannot be limits on speech or monetary donations toward speech in the political arena.

At the time, Obama roundly criticized the decision, even going so far as chiding the justices of the Supreme Court who sat before him in his 2010 State of the Union address. But on Tuesday his campaign announced it would be supporting a super PAC founded by two former White House staffers, Priorities USA Action, which says on its website, "We are at the forefront of efforts to draw clear contrasts between progressive policies and those of the far right."

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The New York Times called the decision "a milestone in Mr. Obama’s evolving stances on political fund-raising" that will escalate the 2012 election money war. 

POLITICO called the decision to embrace the controversial fundraising tools "an act of hypocrisy or necessity, depending on the beholder," 

In the email announcing the decision, Obama 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina said, "this cycle, our campaign has to face the reality of the law as it currently stands." It continued, "we can't allow for two sets of rules in this election whereby the Republican nominee is the beneficiary of unlimited spending and Democrats unilaterally disarm."

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"Senior campaign officials as well as some White House and Cabinet officials" will be able to speak at the super PAC's fundraisers, but Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and their wives won't attend any events or fundraisers.

Messina then switches angles and says the torrent of small-donations and grassroots support the campaigns received during the 2008 election will be what makes the difference: "It will be up to us -- the grassroots organization, funded by an average donation of $55 -- to win this election."

The Washington Post said this is just one more change in the reshaped election finance regime that makes it "easier for corporations, unions and wealthy individuals to bankroll political advertising and other efforts."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/120207/obama-reverses-stance-super-pacs