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Citizens United Knocks Obama For Campaign Finance Hypocrisy


First Posted: 06/30/11 10:06 AM ET Updated: 08/30/11 06:12 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- A conservative group is poking President Barack Obama and the Democrats over their recent switch in tactics to embrace the outside campaign spending allowed by the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court ruling.

Citizens United was behind that landmark decision, which freed corporations and unions to spend unlimited sums of money on elections.

The group's new video shows then-candidate Barack Obama delivering a message to former Sen. John Edwards, then one of Obama's primary opponents, on the use of outside groups. Obama accuses Edwards of working around campaign finance laws, despite claiming to oppose such manipulation.

"We found out today that there's an outside group spending $750,000 ... and the individual who is running the group used to be John Edwards' campaign manager," Obama says. "You can't just talk the talk. The easiest thing in the world is to talk about change during the election time."

WATCH:



The video comes two months after Bill Burton, the former campaign aide and deputy press secretary to the Obama White House, launched two outside groups, Priorities USA, a nonprofit not disclosing its donors, and Priorities USA Action, a Super PAC that can receive unlimited funds from corporate and union sources.

Conservatives have howled that the launch of these groups signals a White House about-face on the use of unlimited, and sometimes secret, donations to spend on elections. After the Priorities launch, Crossroads GPS, the Karl Rove-affiliated conservative non-profit, sent around remarks by the president about the dangers of anonymous donations.

The Citizens United video echoes this charge of hypocrisy with text that reads, "President Obama, If you still believe your words from 2007 ... tell your former staff Bill Burton and Priorities USA: Thanks, but no thanks."

Burton's response has been that Democrats were forced to adopt the new unlimited spending groups to counter the torrent of outside GOP spending by groups like Crossroads GPS, American Crossroads and American Action Network.

That same message was delivered in a Wednesday fundraising appeal for Priorities USA Action by another founder of the group, former Clinton aide Paul Begala.

"We watched Karl Rove and the Koch brothers dominate the airwaves for too long," Begala said. "We formed these groups as a vehicle to ensure that never again would their attacks go unanswered, their propaganda be labeled as truth and their distortions be confused as fact."

Priorities USA Action's first advertisement, airing in battleground states, pivots around a recent $20 million ad buy from Crossroads GPS. The ad begins by calling the Crossroads ads, "politics at its worst."

Former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold recently made hay out of the sudden switch in tactics by Democrats at the annual Netroots Nation conference. Feingold's statements were in line with the message candidate Obama is seen delivering in the Citizens United video.

"Creating those kinds of super PACs for Democrats is wrong," Feingold said. "It is not something we should do. ... I think it's a mistake for us to take the argument that they like to make -- that 'what we're going to do now is, we're going to take corporate money like the Republicans do, then after we win, we'll change it.'"

"When's the last time anyone did that?" Feingold asked. "Most people don't change the rules after they win."

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