Comedian Bill Maher announced his intention to donate $1 million to the super PAC for the re-election of President Barack Obama.
Maher surprised viewers Thursday while performing his comedy segment, CrazyStupidPolitics, on Yahoo's Screen Live Standup Series in Silicon Valley. Near the end of his set, he broke the news.
I would like tonight to announce a donation to the Obama super PAC, which has the very unfortunate tongue-twister name Priorities USA Action, he said. I know, it was named by Borat. But tonight, I would like to give that PAC one million dollars.
Maher joins Hollywood bigwigs Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg in donating large sums to Priorities USA Action. A spokeswoman for Maher confirmed the pledge on Friday, according to Reuters.
Super PACs have been a hot-button issue during this presidential election. Ever since a 2010 Supreme Court decision in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, organizations have been entitled to the same free speech rights as individuals. In an election season, this gives large organizations the right to form super PACS and spend huge amounts of money to support a party -- as long as they don't collaborate with their candidate in any way. But collaboration comes in many forms, and critics doubt whether non-cooperation rules can be effectively enforced.
On Jan. 13, Maher discussed super PACs on his weekly HBO political-commentary show, Real Time with Bill Maher. He and guest Rob Reiner seemed to agree that super PACs were bad for the political process.
Why don't we just have elections like they do in other civilized countries: two months at the end of the year, publicly funded; you don't get money from anybody? Maher asked.
But faced with the prospect of taking the ethical high road while conservatives raised enough money to take the presidency, Maher reasoned that avoiding a Republican win was worth a million dollars. This is the wisest investment I think I could make, he said in a statement.
Maher wasn't the only one with reservations; many Obama supporters were dismayed by the president's January decision to encourage super PAC participation. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney defended the move in a briefing on February 6, arguing that refusing a potential source of revenue could seriously harm Obama's chances at reelection.
It's an unfortunate situation... [T]he rules being what they are, the campaign has made clear that they cannot unilaterally disarm in a circumstance like this, he said.
So far, the performance of Priorities USA, has been disappointing. The group raised $58,815.83 during the entire month of January, while Restore Our Future, which supports Romney, raised more than three times that amount on a single day on average. Maher's contribution will bring Obama's total super PAC earnings up to about $5.4 million.
Democrats expect an uptick in donations once the Republican primary is over and the presidential race is on.