To hear the Republican presidential candidates tell it, they’ve already lost control of their campaigns to outsiders. Mitt Romney and other hopefuls vying for the GOP nomination are complaining in unison about the dominant role being played by super PACs, new independent groups that are shifting the landscape of the 2012 elections with a torrent of negative and often inaccurate attack ads. Then again, this could all be so much bluster. Even as they complain about super PAC ads, the candidates seem happy to repeat the attacks that the ads contain — aiming to reap the political benefits from groups with no direct accountability to the public.
“We all would like to have super PACs disappear, to tell you the truth,” Romney said at a debate Monday night in Myrtle Beach, S.C. But then he embraced them Tuesday morning: “It’s not that I don’t support super PACs. We raise money for super PACs. We encourage super PACs. Each candidate has done that.”
The waffling underscores the awkward relationship between the groups and Romney, Newt Gingrich and other GOP candidates, who are simultaneously distancing themselves from, and taking advantage of, the super PACs without running afoul of campaign finance rules. The groups, which have emerged from court rulings dismantling key campaign finance restrictions, are allowed to back candidates with no limits on how much money they can raise or spend.