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Battle of the Super PACs: Can Obama's Allies Catch Romney's? Battle of the Super PACs: Can Obama's Allies Catch Romney's?

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Blogs / Influence

Battle of the Super PACs: Can Obama's Allies Catch Romney's?

July 5, 2012

A 10,000-word New York Times Magazine article today asks, "Can the Democrats Catch Up in the Super-PAC Game?"

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We'll see if we can answer that in just a minute. But first, what's this article all about?

Author Robert Draper covers a lot of ground, from the inception of Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney's super PAC, Priorities USA Action, to Democrats' distaste for playing what, in the wake of the Citizens United decision, seems to be a Republicans' game, to the "relatively solid footing" where the group finds itself now. 

So, what's the answer to the question in the Times's headline?

In terms of dollars raised, Draper writes, "Having conceded the arms race before it even began, the Priorities team recognized that its only hope lay in asymmetrical warfare." 

And if Priorities is waging a guerrilla war, there's a good chance that it won't catch the Karl Rove- and Koch brother-backed groups that, along with Restore Our Future, could amass a combined war chest of up to $800 million, according to the article. 

Priorities USA's goal was to raise $100 million, and as of late June, Draper reports, the group has raised $40 million and has "about a dozen million-dollar donors onboard." 

It turns out that raising lots of money is not so easy, and in one of the more interesting sections of the article we learn that Burton and Sweeney's group was slow out of the gate, raising only $7 million in its first 10 months of existence, and Burton and Sweeney weren't necessarily naturals at asking for money:

Arguably, the skill sets of driving home a rapid-response message to a roomful of deadline-crazed journalists and charming a tycoon into parting with a million dollars could not be more different. Burton and Sweeney were novices at asking for money, and apparently it showed.

A turning point of sorts came after the group decided to hone in on Mitt Romney's experience at the private-equity firm Bain Capital, and financed a "$10 million TV blitz in the swing states of Colorado, Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Each week featured a somber new anti-Romney testimonial," Draper writes. Then came reports that casino magnate Sheldon Adelson was giving $10 million to a pro-Romney super PAC, and Burton fired off an email to Democratic donors. "The subject heading of Burton's e-mail -- minus a profane verb -- was: "So apparently they're not messing around," according to Draper. 

So what do you think? Will pro-Obama super PACs catch up?

Photo: Screen grab from The New York Times

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