Rove, Steele rebuff foes on campaign cash

GOP duo cite ‘08 finances of Obama, Pelosi

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Top Republican leaders on Sunday again defended the use of money from outside groups to support their party’s political campaigns, saying Democrats exercised the same legal rights in the 2008 presidential elections, but added that the system needs more transparency.

“In 2008, President Obama received the benefit of over $400 million of spending by outside groups on his behalf, most whom did not report a single donor. And it was not a threat to democracy when it helped get him elected,” Republican strategist Karl Rove said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “Suddenly, everybody has gotten spun up about it this year.”

Still, Mr. Rove, the deputy chief of staff for President George W. Bush, acknowledged that groups not having to disclose the names of donors could have too much influence on voters and elections.

“It’s not the old days when Democrats … came in with big bags of money,” said Mr. Rove, who is affiliated with American Crossroads, one of the groups being criticized. “Let’s just be honest: I would like to have a different system. But we have the system we have.”

Mr. Rove made his comments as Michael S. Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, lashed out again at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, for comments made this weekend about “secret” money.

“Don’t give me this ‘high and mighty’ ” pose, he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

He challenged Mrs. Pelosi and other Democrats to provide evidence that groups backing Republican candidates were taking contributions illegally, whether from anonymous donors or foreign interests.

“Put up or shut up,” he said, also adding that Mr. Obama refused to disclose money sources that helped him get elected two years ago.

However, Mr. Steele acknowledged, “at the end of the day, I’m all for transparency.”

The men diverged in their opinion of Mr. Obama’s job performance, with Mr. Rove, who once called the president an “utter disaster,” praising several of the president’s efforts.

“There are things that I think he’s done well,” Mr. Rove said.

He said aspects of Mr. Obama’s education policy were “very positive” - including his pay-for-performance idea for teachers. However, he saved his highest praise for Mr. Obama’s military policy, particularly his decision to stay in Afghanistan and continuing Mr. Bush’s policies in Iraq by not calling for a drastic troop withdrawal.

“I think he made a courageous decision in Afghanistan, much against the hard-left base of his party, but the right decision,” Mr. Rove said. “That doesn’t mean that I agree 100 percent with the decision in Afghanistan. I think he has shown too much interest in making that July target a hard date for withdrawal, and I think that would be a mistake.”

Mr. Steele was less supportive of Mr. Obama.

“We philosophically disagree with the direction the president is going,” he said. “The spending, the debt, the deficit, the burden that’s been placed on the backs of future generations is unsustainable. The administration, along with Nancy Pelosi and [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid, are kind of whistling past that graveyard, ignoring the hard facts that we cannot sustain, nor afford the continued spending policies of this administration.”

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