WASHINGTON -- Struggling to hang on in the polls, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's presidential campaign has been saved, in part, by a friendly political action committee that has put millions of dollars into an ad campaign in Iowa and is reportedly poised to do the same in Florida.
The ad campaign, which attacks the record of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, has helped soften Gingrich's rise in Iowa. But the role being played by the super PAC behind them, Restore Our Future, is not without irony.
Back when he was making his first run at elected office in 1994, a bid for Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, Romney argued that political action committees shouldn't exist. He outlined the fairly aggressive approach he would take to campaign finance reform -- one that is utterly discordant with his current presidential campaign.
These kinds of associations between money and politics are in my view wrong and for that reason I would like to have campaign spending limits and to say we are not going to spend more than in certain campaigns... because otherwise I think you have money playing far too important a role. I also would abolish PACS... I don't like them. I don't like the influence of money, whether it is business, labor, or any other group. I do not like that kind of influence. Lobbyists, I want them registered I want to know who they are. I want to make sure that gifts are limited. I think we have to really become much more vigilant in seeing the impact on money on politics.
Back in 2008, Romney was heavily criticized by his opponents (most notably former Senator Fred Thompson) for being all over the map on campaign finance reform; and, more specifically, supporting a public financing system that drew money from a ten percent toll on private fundraising. (Romney, in the end, argued that a public financing system couldn't be implemented with Massachusetts's budget shortfalls; and it is worth noting that in that same 1994 speech he said he was "not in favor of having public funding of campaigns.")
Those attacks never really stuck, in part because Romney had been against McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform -- the largely dismantled law that was a point of serious opposition for conservatives -- but also because there was no evident hypocrisy to the attack (just general confusion over Romney's position). With respect to political action committees, however, Romney is clearly now benefiting from an entity he once said should be abolished.
The Romney campaign did not immediately return a request for comment. The campaign is legally prohibited from coordinating with Restore our Future, meaning that even if it wanted the group to cease operations -- and it doesn't -- there is nothing it could do to make that happen.
Romney is far from the only politician whose actions have contradicted his words on campaign finance reform. President Obama has been an advocate for the matching public funds system in place for general elections. But he opted out of that system in 2008 and seems poised to do the exact same thing in 2012, since he would be forfeiting too much money if he did otherwise.