Entries in Priorities USA Action (9)


Debunked, 'Disgusting' Ad Tying Romney to Cancer Death Allegedly Airs ‘in Error’

Jeff Swensen/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A controversial TV ad tying Mitt Romney to a woman’s cancer death aired Tuesday for the first time in Ohio, allegedly in error, according to the pro-Obama super PAC that produced it.

"Station error is all," explained Priorities USA Action senior strategist Bill Burton. "Kind of like when the Florida station accidentally aired Restore Our Future's anti-Gingrich ad in June."

The ethics and accuracy of the claims in the 30-second spot -- titled "Understands" -- have been the subject of intense debate since it first appeared online one week ago, with former President Clinton aide Lanny Davis calling it "disgusting."

His criticism wasn't alone. Republicans and some other Democrats say the group crossed a line in suggesting Romney’s role at Bain Capital contributed to a woman’s death. Fact-checkers debunked the ad's suggestion that the woman died after her husband's layoff from a Bain-owned factory or the allegation she lacked health insurance because of the move. 

The Obama campaign first said it wasn't familiar with the ad, but was forced to backpedal when fact-checkers found the ad's main speaker, Joe Soptic, in other pro-Obama ads. The administration has refused to disavow the ad, claiming no affiliation with the super PAC -- even though administration officials have fundraised for it and former White House staffers run its operations.

Burton has argued that criticism of the ad is overblown and that it fairly reflects the long-term consequences of bankruptcies and corporate buyouts by Romney’s Bain Capital -- despite the fact that the spot's allegations have been debunked.

With the outcry and debate, there has been much speculation about whether the ad would air at all. Priorities USA officials have been coy about the delay in the ad’s hitting the airwaves, insisting only that it has been, “shipped to television stations” and would air on demand.

The free attention garnered by the controversy alone seemed to be a desired effect of Priorities. The spot has had over 700,000 views online, and as of Friday, four of the top five states in which it's been viewed online include Florida, Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, a Priorities official said.

BuzzFeed’s Zeke Miller first reported Tuesday night that the ad officially aired in Cleveland that morning, citing an, "ad buy tracking source."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fatal Mistake? Obama Campaign Backtracks: Admits Knowing Story Behind Criticized Anti-Romney 'Cancer' Ad

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- One day after claiming the Obama campaign had no knowledge of the story of the man included in a pro-Obama super PAC ad, spokeswoman Jen Psaki was forced to admit the campaign had worked with him before.

“No one is denying that he was in one of our campaign ads,” Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One, referring to Joe Soptic, who was shown in a Priorities USA Action ad essentially blaming Mitt Romney for his wife’s death.

“What’s clear here, again, is that we’re focusing so much on an ad that has not run yet, that was done by an outside group,” Psaki stressed.

In the ad, which Priorities USA Action still plans to air later this week, Soptic, a former GST Steel worker, explains how he lost his job and health benefits when Romney’s Bain Capital closed his plant. Soptic’s wife later became ill and died shortly after she was diagnosed with cancer. "I do not think Mitt Romney realizes what he’s done to anyone, and furthermore, I do not think Mitt Romney is concerned," Soptic says in the ad.

What the ad doesn't say, because it completely undercuts its story, is that Romney had left Bain by the point at which Soptic was laid off, and also, Soptic's wife had her own health insurance through her own job.

Psaki deflected the criticism for the Soptic commercial -- which Democratic strategist and former President Clinton top aide Lanny Davis today called "disgusting" -- by bringing up a different ad, Romney’s campaign spot attacking the president's welfare reforms.

The Romney ad touts Preisdeint Obama got rid of many of the Clinton-era welfare changes, like a mandate welfare recipients must be working or actively trying to find work to get their benefits. Psaki claimed that a "bold-face lie."

“We know that there’s a debate that’s going on out there between ads on the airwaves,” she said. “But there’s been a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison here, when we’re comparing an ad that has not even run, by an outside group we have nothing to do with, with an ad that is the basis of Mitt Romney’s campaign right now, that is a bold-face lie about the president’s record on welfare.  And I think that’s frustrating to us because they’re being compared at the same level.”

Going a step further, Psaki said that no one was asking the Romney campaign to explain ads being run by the Republican super PAC.

“I saw an ad yesterday that is being run by a Republican outside group that questions whether the president was born in the United States and shows a picture of his birth certificate with a question mark on it.  No one is asking the Romney campaign about that ad and what they think about that ad. So as we talk about apples and oranges, that’s the apples-to-apples comparison I’ll leave you with,” she said.

In response, the Romney campaign said the president’s campaign had been caught lying.

“The Obama campaign acknowledged today that it ran a television ad and hosted a conference call that promoted the same despicable attack that was used in a discredited ad run by President Obama’s Super PAC,” Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said. “The Obama campaign has now admitted that it lied to the media and the American people in a disgraceful attempt to conceal their connection to this shameful smear. Americans deserve better -- they deserve a president who’s willing to run an honest campaign and be honest about his own record.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Super PAC Was Inspiration for Obama's ‘Romney Hood’ Line 

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama has his super PAC to thank for a colorful and succinct new attack on Mitt Romney as the reverse of Robin Hood.

At a fundraiser Monday night in Stamford, Conn., Obama debuted the slam on his Republican rival, encapsulating a week-long critique of his proposed tax plan.

“He’d ask the middle class to pay more in taxes so that he could give another $250,000 tax cut to people making more than $3 million a year. It’s like Robin Hood in reverse,” Obama said. “It’s Romney Hood.”

The term, which drew the loudest applause and triggered a flood of buzz online, was coined not by Obama or his speechwriters, but by a team of Democratic strategists working for Priorities USA Action, which floated the concept last week.

While Priorities USA Action and the Obama campaign are forbidden by law from formally collaborating, they have been known to take subtle cues from each other on message and tactics -- something made a little easier when staff on both sides are former colleagues in the Obama administration.

Priorities USA senior strategist Bill Burton first surfaced the “Romney Hood” label for the presumptive GOP nominee in the subject line of an email blast to reporters on Aug. 1.

“The reverse Robin Hood economics in Mitt Romney’s plan have finally been revealed,” Burton wrote, citing a Washington Post report on the new Tax Policy Center analysis of the governor’s tax plan.

Burton Tuesday credited the creative collaboration of his staff, including strategist Paul Begala, with coming up with the bumper-sticker frame on Romney’s economic vision. He suggested it was a flattering coincidence that the president has adopted the line for his stump speech.

Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt wouldn’t address the super PAC inspiration for the “Romney Hood” line, adding only that the phrase is “pretty much self-explanatory.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Bill Clinton Backs Obama Super PAC

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(NEW YORK) -- Former president Bill Clinton is throwing his support behind Priorities USA Action, the super PAC backing President Obama, agreeing to headline a “briefing” for potential donors in New York City later this month.

The event marks Clinton’s first foray into fundraising for the group, Priorities USA senior strategist Bill Burton told ABC News. The 42nd president’s appearance is aimed at keeping Obama competitive in the money race with GOP outside groups, which have held a sizable advantage.

It’s also the latest sign of the high-profile, high-value role Clinton is playing in Obama’s re-election campaign.

Clinton, who famously clashed with Obama during the 2008 campaign, has appeared in Obama campaign TV ads; stood by the president’s side in appeals to deep pocket Democratic donors; and will deliver the keynote nominating address on the third night of the Democratic National Convention next month.

Clinton’s involvement with Priorities was first reported by The New York Times.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pro-Obama Super PAC Reports Best Fundraising Month Yet

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Priorities USA Action, the super PAC supporting Obama, raised $4 million in May, according to its Federal Election Commission report released on Wednesday.  This marks the group’s best fundraising month since it began, and a big improvement from April, when they raised just $1.6 million.

The group reported spending $4.2 million in May, and ended the reporting period with $4.5 million cash on hand.  They report owing no debt.

Priorities’ total raised for the month was not that far behind the pro-Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future, which has so far surpassed the Democratic group in its fundraising.  Restore Our Future reported raising roughly $5 million in May.  The group still holds a sizable cash-on-hand advantage; it reported ending the month with $8.4 million in cash.

There were no celebrity donors to Priorities this month -- past donors have included Bill Maher and Jeffrey Katzenberg -- but there were a few million-dollar donors: a retired woman named Barbara Stiefel in Coral Gables, Fla; Franklin Haney, CEO of FLH Company, a real estate development company in Washington, D.C.; and Steve Mostyn, an attorney in Houston.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Super PAC Reprises GOP Attacks on Romney, Bain

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Priorities USA Action, the pro-Obama super PAC, is out with a scathing reminder to Republicans that just a few months ago many of the party’s leading voices were the ones attacking Mitt Romney and his record at private equity firm Bain Capital.

Remember when former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said it’s “pretty hard to justify rich people [like Romney] figuring out clever legal ways to loot a company”?

Or, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s disputing Romney’s claim of creating 100,000 jobs?

Or, Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s calling Romney and his Bain cohorts “vulture capitalists”?

Democrats and the Obama campaign are now essentially making the same argument, that Romney was a wealth-seeking corporate raider whose business experience disqualifies him for the nation’s highest office.

A new Priorities Web video, simply named “Republicans vs. Romney’s Record,” is a greatest clips reel from the GOP primary, highlighting that Democrats are not breaking new ground with their anti-Bain campaign and that many Republicans also considered Bain fair game.

The video's transcript reads:

NEWT GINGRICH:  I’m for capitalism. I’m for people who go in to save a company. I’m for people who take real risk. But if somebody comes in and takes all the money out of your company and then leaves you bankrupt while you go off with millions …

RICK PERRY:  They sit there until they see a distressed company then they swoop in and pick the carcass clean and then fly away.

GINGRICH: Loot companies, leave behind broken families, broken towns, people on unemployment.

JON HUNTSMAN: Governor Romney enjoys firing people. I enjoy creating jobs.

PERRY: It’s the ultimate insult for Mitt Romney to come to South Carolina and tell you he feels your pain. Because he caused it. There is something inherently wrong getting rich off failure and sticking it to someone else is how you do your business. I happen to think that’s indefensible.

GINGRICH: Those of us who believe in free markets and those of us who believe that the whole goal of investment is entrepreneurship and job creation, find it pretty hard to justify rich people figuring out clever legal ways to loot a company, leaving behind 1,700 people without a job.

SARAH PALIN: Gov. Romney has claimed to have created 100,000 jobs at Bain and people are wanting to know is there proof of that claim and is it US jobs created for US citizens? And that’s fair, that’s not negative campaigning, that’s fair to get a candidate to be held accountable.

JOHN BRABENDER (Rick Santorum spokesman): While Mitt Romney was at Bain Capital almost one out of four companies they were involved with went bankrupt or out of business.

PERRY: I happen to think that companies like Bain Capital could have come in and helped these companies if they truly were venture capitalists, but they’re not. They’re vulture capitalists.

GINGRICH: Somebody who’s very wealthy comes in, takes over your company, takes out all the cash and leaves behind the unemployment. I don’t think that’s a model we want to advocate and I don’t think any conservative wants to get caught defending that kind of model.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama ‘Signed Off’ on Super PAC Decision After Decrying Negativity

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama “signed off” on the decision to reverse course and overtly encourage support for his affiliated super PAC, Priorities USA  Action, senior campaign officials said Tuesday.

“It’s been an evolving conversation,” one official said, explaining the move on a conference call with reporters. “We’ve been watching throughout the course of the Republican primary process, the most recent filing deadline and the Koch brothers conference and what’s been coming out of that: a half-billion dollars to defeat the president.”

Aides refused to characterize Obama’s feelings on the decision -- specifically whether he made it “distastefully” -- or when he made it.

“I’m not going to characterize how the president came to the decision. It’s pretty clear that the president doesn’t support the law as it currently stands, but he realizes this is the law that currently stands,” one campaign official said.

Just two days ago, Obama told NBC’s Matt Lauer that he “worries” about the influence of super PACs on the political process.

“One of the worries we have obviously in the next campaign is that there are so many of these so-called super PACs, these independent expenditures that are gonna be out there,” he said. “There is gonna be just a lot of money floating around, and I guarantee a bunch of it’s gonna be negative.”

Later Obama defended his role in soliciting campaign contributions from wealthy donors -- likely the same crowd that will now be tapped to give to Priorities USA -- as an inconvenient reality.

“Unfortunately, right now partly because of Supreme Court rulings and a bunch of decisions out there, it is very hard to get your message out without having some resources,” he said.

Then, one day later, his campaign announced that his Cabinet secretaries and top White House officials would help raise millions for a super PAC that will run negative ads.

GOP independent political groups have spent more than $40 million on radio and TV ads in the primary campaign so far, with millions more in cash on hand. Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch have also reportedly pledged to spend close to $100 million in conjunction with dozens of their allies to campaign against Obama.

Officials emphasized that White House and campaign staff would not overtly solicit funds for the super PAC but simply “express support for their mission, which is re-electing the president.” The president, vice president and first lady are not expected to attend any super PAC events.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Bill Burton: Romney ‘a Phony’; Pawlenty ‘Not the Kind of Steward You Want’

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- Bill Burton left his post as deputy White House press secretary this spring to head up a new outside group dedicated to President Obama’s re-election -- the same kind of group, it should be noted, that the president says should not exist because it doesn’t have to disclose its donors.

On ABC’s Top Line webcast Wednesday, Burton previewed some of the messaging that Priorities USA Action is likely to use in taking on the president’s possible challengers.

“One thing that we've learned as we go around the country and we conduct some research talking to voters, it’s very clear that voters don't have a clear sense of who Mitt Romney is, they certainly don't know who Tim Pawlenty is,” Burton told Top Line. “But the more that they learn about the fact that they would both like to bring about Paul Ryan's budget plan, which would essentially end Medicare, they find it pretty shocking, pretty disgusting.

“Mitt Romney's positions, which have changed throughout the years, I think will help to make the case that he's a phony, he hasn't said anything that he's really stuck by on any issue that matters over the course of his decades running for public service.

“And Tim Pawlenty, you know, look at the mess he left in Minnesota. He left a $6.2 billion deficit that came about as the result of the fact that all of his budgets had all of these hidden tricks and gimmicks where he tried to hide problems. And that's not the kind of steward you want at the forefront of your economy.”

Burton defended his decision to form an outside group that’s organized legally in similar ways to ones the president has blasted as a “threat to our democracy.” Priorities USA was formed to respond to groups formed by Karl Rove and the billionaire conservative Koch brothers, Burton said.

“Our view is that we don't think that they should be able to go unfettered and be able to go and spend all this money without any response whatsoever. We may not like the rules, we may...think that there should be reform, but we're not going to let Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers and right-wing conservatives dictate the terms of this election.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hypocrisy? Dems Start Rove-Style Influence Group

Former White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)(WASHINGTON) -- “We don’t control outside groups,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Friday on Air Force One, as the president flew from Washington, D.C., to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. “These are not people working for the administration.”

Carney was referring to Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action, the new outside groups formed by former White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton and Sean Sweeney, who served as chief of staff to then-White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.  Priorities USA Action will register itself in the tax code as a “social welfare group,” which does not require the disclosure of donors. Or, as Burton and Sweeney put it in a press release: “Priorities USA Action is an Independent Expenditure PAC that supports candidates who will advance policies that provide the strongest and most sound outcomes for middle class families.”

In the 2010 elections, President Obama repeatedly protested the way outside that do not disclose their donors filled the airwaves with television ads.

“They don't have the courage to stand up and disclose their identities,” President Obama said on October 15 of these groups’ donors while campaigning in Wilmington, Delaware. “They could be insurance companies or Wall Street banks or even foreign-owned corporations. We will not know because there's no disclosure. But this isn't just a threat to the Democrats: It's a threat to our democracy.”

Sweeney in a statement said that the new groups are part of “an effort to level the playing field.  Americans deserve an honest debate about job creation, the economy, national security and education.  That debate will never happen if only right wing extremists are engaged on the battlefield.”

The conservative independent group Crossroads GPS – one of the main groups President Obama criticized last year -- was founded in part by former Bush White House political guru Karl Rove. A spokesman or the group, Jonathan Collegio, said that “last year, Obama’s White House and hard left allies launched a coordinated PR and legal assault on non-disclosing conservative groups – and now, just six months later, Obama’s own political operatives are launching the very type of groups they demagogued as ‘shadowy threats to democracy.’”

“Obama’s brazen hypocrisy, in encouraging his own operatives to start groups exactly like the ones he demagogued last year, shows how cynical this President can be when it comes to perpetuating his own power,” Collegio said.

Burton said that “while we agree that fundamental campaign finance reforms are needed, Karl Rove and the Koch brothers cannot live by one set of rules as our values and our candidates are overrun with their hundreds of millions of dollars.  We will follow the rules as the Supreme Court has laid them out, but the days of the double standard are over.”

Said White House press secretary Carney when asked about the groups today: “The president’s position on disclosure remains the same.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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