White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday the decision to take advantage of super-PACs came from re-election campaign officials in Chicago.
"But the president obviously agrees with this decision because of what the campaign has said, is that … the rules are what they are," Carney said during the daily media briefing. "And … the campaign has made clear that they cannot engage in this campaign; they cannot compete effectively if there are two sets of rules, if they play by a different set of rules."
Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, first lady Michelle Obama and Biden's wife, Jill, "will not appear at any of these events associated with these organizations," Carney said.
Asked whether Obama wrestled with his decision, Carney noted that "you've already seen in the Republican Party how much money is being raised by these organizations, hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, or so I read, of it totally undisclosed."
For his re-election campaign, Obama did not object to the formation of the Priorities USA Action super-PAC, run by two former White House aides, but hasn't done anything openly to help the group until now, The New York Times reported. His past criticism of outside groups -- including calling out a Supreme Court decision that opened up undisclosed campaign financing during last year's State of the Union address -- made it difficult to get donors to back Priorities USA Action, which added to its problems of keeping up with conservative groups, some Democrats said.
"[Obama's] views on the problems associated with this decision have not changed and he has expressed them as recently as a few days ago and will continue to express them," Carney said Tuesday during the regular media briefing.
Two Republican super-PACs formed with help from the Republican adviser Karl Rove, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, raised $51 million total for 2011 for congressional and presidential campaigns, the Times said. Major Democratic groups, including Priorities USA Action, raised $19 million for the year.
Those lopsided totals figures led Jim Messina, Obama's re-election campaign manager, to reach out to the top tier of donors last week in an e-mail, urging that they raise more money.
After Obama signed off on the plan to allow cabinet officials, White House senior advisers and top campaign staff members to deliver speeches on behalf of the president at events for Priorities USA Action, the new policy was presented to the campaign's National Finance Committee in a call Monday and announced to supporters in an e-mail.
"We're not going to fight this fight with one hand tied behind our back," Messina told the Times. "With so much at stake, we can't allow for two sets of rules. Democrats can't be unilaterally disarmed."