Leading GOP presidential aspirants Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney have decried the role of high-spending super PACs in recent days, while their close friends, donors and former staff push these newly created political committees to the forefront of modern campaigning.
Welcome to the 2012 campaign, where these new groups that can raise donations in unlimited amounts are acting as surrogates for candidates, in some cases outspending the candidates and the political parties.
In Iowa on Monday, Gingrich took aim at super PACs of his opponents, who have been bashing him in broadcast ads and fliers. "It would be nice if candidates were responsible for the things being done by the people who know them personally, who are trying to help them get elected,”
Gingrich said, clearly referring to Romney's super PAC, which has been advertising heavily in Iowa: “It’s very disappointing to see some of my friends who are running putting out so much negative junk.”
Close former advisors to Romney have organized and managed the Restore Our Future super PAC that last week announced a $2.4-million ad campaign in Iowa. In an interview Tuesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Romney said he has nothing to do with that group, even though former advisors run it and once appeared at an event for the organization.
"My goodness, if we cooperate in any way, shape or form we go to the big house," Romney said. He then added that campaign finance rules have made a “mockery” of the political system and called for the nation to "get rid of these super PACs.” (Video below.)
Even as Gingrich was complaining about super PAC activity, his longtime advisor, Rick Tyler, was planning to join one of two Gingrich super PACs, Winning Our Future. Tyler has advised Gingrich since 1999 on religious and political issues, serving as a spokesman for Gingrich after he left Congress. In joining the new super PAC, Tyler reunites with another colleague from the Gingrich private sector years, Becky Burkett, who directed fundraising for Gingrich projects, working with Tyler.
NBC News reports that the Our Destiny PAC, a super PAC backing Jon Huntsman, has a new ad out that pushes his credentials as a “consistent conservative.” The super PAC is also running full-page ads in New Hampshire newspapers touting Huntsman as "more conservative than Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich combined."
Meanwhile, Democratic-oriented super PACs, though outspent, continue to organize. Priorities Action USA, a committee supporting President Obama, has broadcast more than $300,000 worth of ads criticizing Romney.