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Cabinet Members a Super PAC No-Show

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Then there was the kicker: Obama himself, by far his own most powerful rainmaker, wouldn’t go. Nor would first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden nor Jill Biden. Carney didn’t give an explanation, but the inference seemed clear — super PAC glad-handing was beneath the president and the vice president, but perhaps not, say, the secretaries of Labor and Education.

Romney’s super PACs don’t have that problem. Romney himself has met with mega-donors such as casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson — who is expected to contribute tens of millions to pro-Romney super PACs — and he has attended super PAC events.

Priorities USA Action, which isn’t allowed to coordinate with the campaign, did not respond to requests for comment. Its finances have improved from a very slow start. It raised $4 million in May and said earlier it was on pace to exceed that in June. It’s spent millions attacking Romney’s years at Bain Capital in battleground states and was featured in a lengthy profile in Sunday’s New York Times.

But its goal of raising $100 million is well below the various pro-Romney super PACs, which aim to spend more than $500 million. And the president’s official campaign is now getting outraised substantially each month by Romney’s official campaign arms — $106 million to $71 million in June alone. The gap has alarmed senior Democrats and the Obama campaign, which is sending out increasingly urgent emails warning donors of defeat.

The president himself has picked up his own fundraising pace — frequently attending $35,800-a-plate traditional campaign events — and was quoted on a recently leaked campaign fundraising call urging his supporters to send more money amid the Republican fundraising onslaught.

It’s now part of Obama’s pitch that he could be the first incumbent president in history to be outspent.

A Democratic strategist familiar with the inner workings of super PACs said the inclusion — or exclusion — of Cabinet officials may not make much difference. The strategist noted that Plouffe is a top draw, while donors may not be able to pick the average Cabinet secretary out of a lineup.

Moreover, the really big checks tend to come after a long process of one-on-one effort rather than the larger events campaigns typically hold. And Democratic donors are typically less transactional than Republicans, the strategist contended, making them less interested in trying to influence a particular official. Other donors don’t want to betray their philosophy against big money in politics by embracing super PACs, the strategist suggested.

The message from Democrats as a whole to potential super PAC donors remains schizophrenic. While they acknowledge the need to raise money through super PACs, they continue trying to push bills in Congress that would blunt the effect of the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court case that made them possible.

On Monday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee filed a complaint against several GOP-aligned groups contending they are violating federal election law by raising unlimited amounts in secret. Senate Democrats also are looking at making another pitch to pass the DISCLOSE Act, which would force super PACs to detail their funding.

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