- The Washington Times - Monday, February 20, 2012

The big-money vehicle intended to raise astronomical sums to serve as the Democratic counter to similar action by Republican-funded super PACs and outside groups is failing miserably, federal documents filed Monday showed.

Priorities USA Action, a super PAC that former top aides to President Obama left the White House last February to run, had only a single substantial donor last month, of $50,000.

Even that check is not a full-throated endorsement from John W. Rogers, CEO of Chicago’s Ariel Capital and a man with the means to give much more.

Besides Mr. Rogers’ gift, the super PAC raised only $5,600 in small sums, which entirely defeats the purpose of a super PAC. Unlike regular campaign organizations and in a dramatic departure from a hundred years of campaign-finance law, super PACs can receive contributions of any amount from people, unions and corporations.

The filing with the Federal Election Committee on Monday covers the super PAC’s January activities.

That desperate financial situation explains a change of course by Mr. Obama earlier this month that drew criticism as hypocritical from officials of both parties and campaign-finance watchdogs. Mr. Obama frequently speaks of the ills of “big money” in politics, especially the little-regulated super PACs, even to the point of dressing down the Supreme Court justices present for his State of the Union speech over the Citizens United decision that made super PACs possible.

Obama campaign manager Jim Messina announced Feb. 6 that some Cabinet secretaries would appear at fundraising events for the super PAC, explaining that “we will not play by two sets of rules.”

Monday’s balance sheet made clear why.

The amount going to a fund with no limits allied with a sitting president drew roughly the same amount of money in January as the inactive presidential campaign of former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who dropped out of the Republican presidential race in August, and which, like all candidate committees, is beholden to strict contribution caps.

The presidential campaign of former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, who has yet to meet the criteria to appear in any of the numerous Republican presidential debates, also raised about the same amount of money as the pro-Obama super PAC.

As for super PAC contrasts, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads super PAC raised nearly 100 times as much from a single donor, Harold Simmons of Texas, what Priorities USA Action did.