Chicago Mayor Emanuel Exits Obama 2012 Campaign, Joins Super PAC

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is still working on the effort to re-elect his former boss, but in a very different capacity.

The former national campaign co-chairman has stepped down and joined Priorities USA Action, a "super" political committee supporting President Barack Obama.

"Everyone knows that the money that's being raised by the Super PACs on behalf of Gov. [Mitt] Romney is an enormous advantage for them," Bill Daley, Emanuel's successor in the White House Chief of Staff role, said Wednesday. "It's unprecedented the sort of amounts they're talking about and it has been very tough to get the message out compared to that onslaught that has come and is going to come." 

Daley, the brother of former Mayor Richard Daley, is the other national co-chair for the Obama 2012 campaign.

Priorities USA Action is run with the help of other former White House advisers and has spent millions of dollars on ads to help the president. Emanuel, who has been close to Presidents Bill Clinton and Obama, is a proven fundraiser.

For the Romney campaign, August was another fundraising bonanza, taking in more than $100 million for the third straight month. Four years ago, it was the Obama campaign breaking fundraising records. Contributions this summer have consistently lagged behind the GOP.

Just before Tuesday night's address by First Lady Michelle Obama, an email blast was sent asking for a $7 donation. By the morning, there was another.

The move adds another wrinkle to Obama's evolving positions on how elections are funded. Daley said 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.

"This whole thing, as President Obama has said, must be corrected. This amount of money is bad for our system, but right now the president's not going to unilaterally disarm against an onslaught of hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars," he said.

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.

"You can talk," said Daley. "[But] there can't be a combination of strategy. They do their own research. They have their own decisions. They do their own [advertising] buys. They do all that, and there's no formal connection."

Federal Election Commission regulations require officials who are "materially involved" in decisions about super PAC finances to be independent from the candidate. That is why Emanuel officially resigned from Obama's campaign.

FEC rules largely prohibit paid employees and independent contractors of campaigns from working for a super PAC within 120 days of leaving that campaign. Emanuel was a volunteer for Obama's campaign so that prohibition does not apply to him.

Priorities USA Action has raised about $25.5 million through July plus an impressive $10 million last month, the group said. Still, it lags similar Republican-leaning groups in overall fundraising; those super PACs hope to raise more than $300 million by November to pay for ads assailing Obama or supporting his GOP challenger, Mitt Romney.

Such close relationships between candidates' advisors and super PACs have happened on the Republican side, too.

Restore Our Future, a pro-Romney super PAC that's spent more than $90 million so far, is run with the help of former Romney campaign adviser Carl Forti. He also consults for American Crossroads, the GOP-supportive super PAC run with the help of Karl Rove, adviser to former President George W. Bush.

Those interactions have also drawn criticism. Rove appeared at a Romney campaign fundraising retreat in Park City, Utah, this summer. Rove and Romney adviser Ed Gillespie also hosted a closed-door political briefing with top donors last month in Colorado.

Spending by campaigns, parties, super PACs and other outside groups in this presidential campaign will likely approach $2 billion by November by both parties combined.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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