Obama earlier in the year converted his victorious re-election campaign into an unprecedented nonprofit organization, Organizing for Action, designed to influence policy debates in Washington. Individual donations to the Obama campaign were capped at $2,500 last year; the new group has no such limits.
Its leaders have reached out to at least 50 top Obama donors who intend to raise at least $500,000 this year. Former Obama campaign manager and group chairman, Jim Messina, said that Organizing for Action voluntarily would disclose the identity and specific amount of money it receives from donors, while denying corporate donations.
With no requirement to do so, the group will self-police the effort.
Late last month, GOP officials with strong ties to the Republican National Committee started an independent organization designed to track and research Democrats in the coming elections. The group is intended to counter a similar organization on the Democratic side established during the last election. Both groups can accept unlimited donations.
The idea for an independent research arm was included among dozens of recommendations in a recent Republican National Committee report released last week. At the same time, the report condemned the proliferation of outside groups that ‘‘use unlimited, and often unreported, amounts of the same money federal candidates and national parties are now prohibited from spending or raising.’’
Republicans were quick to react to the 2010 Supreme Court ruling, creating well-funded outside groups that spent heavily on television ads that aided the GOP’s success in the 2010 congressional elections. Obama initially signaled that he didn’t want Democrats to form outside groups, but ultimately gave his blessing after the Republican gains in that election.
‘‘It’s a disaster of a system. But Democrats need to be engaged or else Republicans are going to perpetually win,’’ said Bill Burton, a former Obama adviser who led the president’s super PAC.
Indeed, outside groups overwhelmingly favored Republicans in the last election. The super PAC allied with Obama, for example, spent more than $65 million compared with $142 million spent by that of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson topped the list of big donors, giving more than $90 million to Republican super PACs in all. That included more than $15 million to the organization backing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s presidential bid and $30 million to Romney’s super PAC.
Gingrich, who describes Adelson as ‘‘a good friend,’’ predicted that number of Super PACs would grow in the coming years.
Both sides seem to be embracing what they see as a new normal in politics.
‘‘Super PACs are a permanent reality within the political ecosystem,’’ said Washington-based Republican consultant Phil Musser. ‘‘And I think their influence and number will increase not decrease.’’