In 2008, Barack Obama discouraged his wealthy supporters and fund-raisers from sending their money to outside liberal political groups instead of directly to his campaign. He didn't want to "face the distraction of over-the-top attacks from a group they couldn't control or even communicate with," and such groups didn't suit his reformer image, especially since he'd been blasting them during the primaries, when they were helping guys like John Edwards. The strategy worked well enough, since, obviously, Obama won.
Some people felt this discouragement of outside groups continued to have an effect on donors in the 2010 campaign. Except this was the year the Republicans got their fund-raising act together. Spurred by a Supreme Court decision that allowed corporations to anonymously donate unlimited amounts to independent political groups and also by the drive to "take back America," whatever that means conservative groups like Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie's American Crossroads, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Action Network, and many others spent $189 million on House and Senate races around the country, helping the GOP to a historic win. Liberal groups only spent a measly $92 million. Hobo money.
Now, with American Crossroads and the like set to spend even more in 2012, when Obama is up for reelection, the White House has apparently had a change of heart on the matter of independent-group assistance.
[W]hen asked three times, [Obama adviser David] Axelrod refused to wave off — and seemed to expect — a similar, well-funded campaign by wealthy Democratic donors and the party's activist allies in labor and the environmental communities in the 2012 campaigns for the White House and Congress.
"Our strong preference is for a campaign finance system that is transparent and open and in which the American people can see what's going on," said Axelrod. "But I am sure the physics of this is that there will be people offended by this and they will be inspired to get involved."
And if that happens, well, the White House will just find a way to live with it.