Former White House Democrats form shadow fundraising group

Rachel Rose Hartman
The Ticket

Democrats connected to the Barack Obama White House appear to have met the challenge of high-powered and shadowy fundraising operations on the right with the time-honored Washington strategy known as "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

Former White House advisers on Friday launched two major fundraising committees to help counter large GOP shadow groups ahead of 2012, Politico's Jeanne Cummings reported Friday.

The overall fundraising effort will hinge mainly on the work of two new groups, Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action. Both organizations will collect unlimited, secret donations to disburse large sums of cash to Democratic election campaigns--the same operational structure that many Democrats and the president himself have opposed.

But organizers say the tactic is necessary.

"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," Bill Burton, former White House spokesman and Priorities co-founder (pictured, right) told Politico.

Burton used Twitter to promote the group's new website Friday. As of Friday morning, it featured a video casting the new group as the opponent of the "extreme right," including Karl Rove, who heads up powerful GOP shadow groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS. Those two GOP groups alone have pledged to spend $120 million on 2012.

"It's time to stand up and fight back," the voiceover on the Priorities' web video announces.

Watch the video below:

Like Rove's groups, the new Democratic committees will include one "SuperPAC" that can raise and spent unlimited contributions, but is required to disclose its donors. There will also be second committee designated as a nonprofit group that can accept unlimited contributions and won't have to disclose donor information.

Organizers of the Priorites' groups have reportedly set a goal to raise $100 million for the 2012 campaign.

This new category of fundraising groups has emerged in the wake of the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, which overturned most existing restrictions on campaign fundraising. Since the ruling in 2010, Democrats have been working on ways to roll back its provisions, but have so far largely failed.

Republicans responded Friday saying that the decision to form the Democratic groups smacks of hypocrisy.

"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," Jonathan Collegio, spokesman for Crossroads, said in a widely reported statement. "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."

UPDATE 12:07pm EST: Story updated to include Crossroads' response.

(Photo of Burton in 2010: Charles Dharapak/AP)