Former Kennedy, Kerry aide Mary Beth Cahill to help pro-Obama group

Stephanie Cutter and Mary Beth Cahill, then, respectively, communications director and campaign manager for Senator John Kerry’s presidential campaign, wait at the FleetCenter before a session of the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
Stephanie Cutter and Mary Beth Cahill, then, respectively, communications director and campaign manager for Senator John Kerry’s presidential campaign, wait at the FleetCenter before a session of the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
Globe file photo

Priorities USA, which runs a pro-Obama super PAC and has faced fund-raising problems, announced today that Massachusetts native Mary Beth Cahill is joining the group.

Cahill, Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s onetime chief of staff and Senator John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign manager, will serve as a consultant on strategy and spending.

Cahill is a close personal friend and political ally of Stephanie Cutter, another Massachusetts native and former Kennedy aide who now serves as deputy manager of President Obama’s reelection campaign committee.

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Cahill brought Cutter into the Kerry campaign after she was hired in late 2003 following initial tumult in the operation.

While the Obama reelection committee and Priorities USA Action—the Priorities USA super PAC—are legally prohibited from coordinating their activities, both are running ads in the same four states focused on Mitt Romney’s business record at the same Missouri steel factory.

Pro-Obama forces are not alone in this regard: A pro-Romney super PAC—Restore Our Future—is headed by aides who worked on Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign. And it, too, has been airing ads all year that support his candidacy and dovetail with his stump speech.

“Mary Beth brings an enormous wealth of experience in national campaigns, and we couldn’t be happier that she’s joining us,” Priorities co-founder Bill Burton said in an e-mail. “As the election draws closer, her expertise in strategy and targeting will be invaluable in ensuring the president’s reelection.”

Cahill had been working most recently as director of the United Auto Workers’ Washington office, as well as director of its UAW Community Action Program. She will remain affiliated with the UAW.

Both Restore Our Future and other pro-Republican advocacy groups and super PACs have vastly outraised and outspent Priorities USA and Priorities USA Action.

That has created problems for the Obama campaign that show no sign of abating.

The president himself has far outraised Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

As of March 31, the Obama campaign had raised $192 million and spent $90 million, leaving it with more than $100 million in the bank. By contrast, Romney had raised $87 million and spent $77 million, leaving him with $10 million in the bank.

But the pro-Romney Restore Our Future has raised $52 million, compared to $9 million for Priorities USA Action.

And a pro-GOP advocacy group, Crossroads GPS, announced this week that it was spending $25 million on anti-Obama ads - a week after the president’s committee announced its own $25 million ad buy. Obama’s committee started with a positive spot before transitioning to the anti-Romney commercial.

Some Democrats have complained that Obama boxed himself in by initially criticizing super PACs as corrupting the political process, but later giving his consent to donate to them. Many liberal Democratic constituencies have not heeded the call, as shown by Priorities USA’s lagging fund-raising.

That has prompted Obama to reach out to donors directly through his campaign committee and the Democratic National Committee. Political analysts say that helps explain why he announced his support of gay marriage the day before he headed to Los Angeles for a fund-raiser with many pro-gay financial backers.

He followed it up this week with a New York fund-raiser headlined by Ricky Martin, a gay singer.

The Democrats have also had to reverse course on fund-raising for their convention this summer in Charlotte, N.C.

While they banned all corporate donations for their 2008 convention in Denver, saying it proved they were free of special-interest influence, this year they’ve created a special committee that is accepting corporate donations for convention-related events.

They insist those donations will not be spent on anything directly connected to Obama’s nomination as the party standard-bearer.

The Republicans are accepting corporate money for their convention in Tampa, Fla.